ESPN BET Screen grab: ESPN BET

ESPN launched its highly anticipated gambling app earlier this week. And while we won’t know for at least a few months how much of a foothold ESPN BET has been able to gain in the crowded gambling market, the early returns have been promising for the Worldwide Leader.

According to, ESPN BET is now No. 1 in iOS downloads for not just sports apps, but all apps, since its launch on Tuesday. ESPN BET’s top ranking is especially impressive considering that the app is currently only available for use in 17 states (it can, however, be downloaded, but not used, in states where it’s not currently operable).

There is some context to ESPN BET’s early success, not all of which is necessarily indicative of its long-term outlook. Perhaps most notably, ESPN BET is offering $200 worth of bonus bets to new customers, while many football and gambling-focused websites received promo codes that help get customers an extra $50 bonus bet on the app. The real test of ESPN BET’s staying power will be how the app performs once the free bets have been used up and/or are no longer available.

Additionally, while the Penn Entertainment-operated sportsbook is replacing the former Barstool Sports Sportsbook, customers who were previously signed up for the Barstool Sports Sportsbook app were required to download the new ESPN BET app. The app largely has the exact same interface, and old Barstool accounts did transfer. The app also likely benefitted from having a standalone launch with full functionality in 17 states, as opposed to many preexisting sportsbooks that are often downloaded — with similar bonus bet promos — once sports betting is made available in a new state.

Still, the early numbers are nothing short of of impressive. And they’re an encouraging sign for ESPN BET moving forward. The app’s real success, however, will be determined by its ability to build on its initial momentum and maintain a customer base that has already been pre-exposed to several more established alternatives.

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About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.