ESPN Bet to Launch in Michigan Nov. 14 With MGCB Regulatory Approval Imminent

Jessica Aletor
Jessica Aletor


  • PENN Entertainment has fixed Tuesday, November 14 as the prospective launch date for ESPN Bet in Michigan.
  • The company hopes to launch ESPN Bet on the same date across 17 states and is waiting on the Michigan Gaming Control Board for regulatory approval.
  • ESPN Bet officially replaces Barstool Sportsbook and customers still on the Barstool network will be automatically transferred on launch date.

Back in August, PENN Entertainment announced that it had entered into an exclusive deal with ESPN and sold off its rights to Barstool Sports. The aftermath of this arrangement was the proposed introduction of ESPN Bet and Hollywood Online Casino in all the states where PENN had sports betting or iGaming licenses.

During the final stages of this deal, we reported that ESPN may require regulatory approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board to operate in the state. PENN has finally confirmed this speculation, while announcing November 14 as the prospective launch date for ESPN Bet in Michigan.

ESPN Bet Hopeful for MGCB Approval Ahead of Launch Date

Since its launch in February 2021, Barstool Sports has been at the forefront of Michigan online sports betting and is currently the fourth highest grossing sportsbook by handle and revenue. In that same period, the brand has pooled over a billion in sports betting handle and about $81 million in revenue, contributing almost $6 million in state and local taxes.

However, Barstool is now set to rebrand as ESPN Bet following a whopping deal worth about $1.5 billion between PENN Entertainment and ESPN. PENN, at its Q3 investors call earlier in November, announced the November 14 launch date for the new sportsbook. All that is left to finally seal the start of a fresh operator is a regulatory approval from the MGCB.

A few months back, the MGCB revealed that PENN can be allowed to rebrand if the renaming plan fulfills branding requirements under Section 4(7) of the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act and Lawful Sports Betting Act This law provides that an internet gaming operator can offer iGaming services under a maximum of two separate brands. Also, only an operator or its platform can accept and process wagers.

The law further stipulates that all websites and software applications used in offering iGaming services must display the brand of the operator or its affiliate. Now, it is down to the sole discretion of the operator to determine if it utilizes one or more of the two possible brand names and logos.

PENN Entertainment remains confident that the MGCB will grant the permission to launch on the said date. The company is also planning to launch ESPN Bet in 16 other states where PENN currently offers sports betting services through diverse partners.

PENN Promises Smooth Transition for Barstool Customers

Pending the much-needed approval, the company is wasting no time to roll out advertisements for the new platform. One of the first ads featured Scott Van Pelt, a famous Sports Center anchor. In addition, ESPN's Daily Wager has now been rebranded to ESPN BET Live. ESPN has also started using official odds provided by ESPN Bet oddsmakers on its editorial content and general programming.

“In connection with the launch, ESPN will be implementing an initial wave of exclusive integrations across the ESPN ecosystem, which includes 200 million unique monthly users in the US more than 12 million of whom are regular users of the nation’s number one fantasy sports app at ESPN,” Jay Snowden, CEO and President of PENN Entertainment said during the company’s Q3 call.

Even more fascinating is the assurance that existing Barstool customers will enjoy a smooth and seamless transition. PENN revealed that as soon as ESPN Bet is launched in the state, Barstool Casino MI customers will be immediately prompted to download the new app. Their data will also be automatically transferred to the ESPN Bet platform.

No Launch Date in Sight for Hollywood Online Casino Yet

While ESPN Bet is expected to kick off operations in earnest, barring any regulatory bottlenecks, there’s been no word about Hollywood Casino Online. Set to replace Barstool Casino, there is no information about whether Hollywood will also be available starting November 14, or if Barstool will remain in operation at that date.

If for any reason Barstool operations are discontinued before Hollywood Casino Online comes onboard, Michigan online casino count could drop to 14. Moreover, the potential benefit for PENN-owned Hollywood Casino at Greektown if the new online casino app comes on board soon enough is worth considering. With the ongoing Detroit retail casino worker strike, PENN would well cushion their losses with a functional online casino service.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments