ESPN Might Run Sports Programming Featuring Betting

Could ESPN start running programming revolving around sports gambling? You bet they could; on Monday the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law prohibiting states from permitting betting on college and professional sports, which triggered ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro to crow to reporters that the ruling opens the door for ESPN to consider moving in that direction. Pitaru said, “It’s obviously very early, but I can tell you that we are actively monitoring and we’re looking at the space," adding that the space is “very interesting to us, especially from a programming perspective.”

According to AdWeek, if ESPN pursues the gambling programming path, it would be presented on ESPN’s new direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, ESPN+, which launched last month.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Constitution protects states’ independence and denies Congress "the power to issue direct orders" to them. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Gaming industry experts estimate that $150 billion a year is spent on sports betting but only about 3% is wagered legally, mostly in Las Vegas.

Gaming experts predict most states, including California, will move toward legalizing sports betting, eager for a new source of revenue. And the major pro-sports leagues — including the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball, which have opposed wagering — are expected to negotiate for a share of that revenue.

On Tuesday, Connor Schell, ESPN’s executive vice president for content, said, “We’ve thought about betting and the conversation around betting in line with what Doug Kezirian is doing on the ‘Behind the Bets’ podcast.”


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