An image from the opening of the ESPN Bet sportsbook and restaurant in Detroit. (Penn Entertainment.) An image from the opening of the ESPN Bet sportsbook and restaurant in Detroit. (Penn Entertainment.)

A notable element with Penn Entertainment’s transition from an Barstool Sportsbook partnership to an ESPN Bet one is what would happen with Penn’s physical sportsbooks.

Well, we’ve now seen a Penn sportsbook and restaurant fully transformed into ESPN Bet branding. And that opened at a good time and place Wednesday, at the Hollywood Casino at Greektown in downtown Detroit ahead of the NFL Draft there Thursday (taking place less than a mile from the book). Here’s ESPN PR’s announcement of that:

https://twitter.com/ESPNPR/status/1783251735038837041

Here are some more photos from a Penn release:

An image from the opening of the ESPN Bet sportsbook and restaurant in Detroit.
An image from the opening of the ESPN Bet sportsbook and restaurant in Detroit. (Penn Entertainment.)
An image from the opening of the ESPN Bet sportsbook and restaurant in Detroit.
An image from the opening of the ESPN Bet sportsbook and restaurant in Detroit. (Penn Entertainment.)

And here’s more information from ESPN’s release:

The ESPN BET sportsbook and restaurant offers guests approximately 4,500 square-feet of betting and dining space, with high-tech wagering kiosks, big-screen TVs, a 30’ video wall for the ultimate sports viewing experience and elevated bar food and drink. The restaurant is one of the many premium dining options available throughout Hollywood Casino at Greektown.

“This is an exciting week to debut PENN’s first physical ESPN BET sportsbook as the city of Detroit hosts the NFL Draft and its festivities,” said Hollywood Casino at Greektown General Manager, John Drake. “Bringing ESPN BET to Hollywood Greektown combines PENN’s premier sports media and sports betting offerings to create an amazing atmosphere for fans to watch and bet on sports. To celebrate the opening, we’re thrilled to host ESPN talent and programming at our property throughout the week.”

“We’re thrilled to open the first ESPN BET retail location in Detroit and become part of a community of deeply passionate sports fans,” said Mike Morrison, Vice President, ESPN BET and ESPN Fantasy. “We want fans to come embrace a first-class betting experience and we’re excited to showcase the ESPN BET brand in a contemporary space.”

This comes after a long process. The “ESPN Bet” rebranding was announced in August, with the full app relaunch taking place in November. But even then, it remained unclear if the 19 physical sportsbook locations (of 32 owned by Penn overall) that carried the Barstool brand would wind up ESPN-branded. The Barstool branding was removed in October, but Penn was not ready to announce any ESPN Bet plans at that time.

It makes sense to roll this out in this location and at this time, though. A big part of the value proposition of Penn’s giant ESPN Bet branding deal (which is costing them $1.5 billion in cash over the first 10 years, plus approximately $500 million in options for ESPN to purchase Penn stock, to say nothing of any of the costs of rebranding and the launch and the loss from selling Barstool for $1 so they could strike this deal) is various promotions of ESPN Bet on ESPN airwaves, from the Bottom Line ticker (sometimes at controversial times) to branded segments (sometimes in controversial ways) and more. And they’ll get some of their money’s worth in live-on-location broadcasts on ESPN platforms this week, as per that release:

With the NFL Draft taking place less than a mile from the property, Hollywood Casino at Greektown is hosting a variety of ESPN programming this week, including the First Draft podcast with Field Yates, Domonique Foxworth, Mina Kimes, and Matt Miller on Wednesday night. On Thursday and Friday, ESPN Radio will broadcast the Unsportsmanlike morning show with Evan Cohen, Chris Canty, and Michelle Smallmon, and the Greeny Show. Additionally, ESPN BET Live, the daily sports betting show on ESPN2, will be live from the ESPN BET sportsbook on Thursday and Friday. ESPN talent will also conduct live SportsCenter hits from the property during the week.

It’s not yet clear how many of the other Penn-owned physical sportsbook locations will rebrand to ESPN Bet. There are significant costs to that, and it may not be a fit in all locations (as noted above, 13 of Penn’s physical sportsbooks never went to Barstool branding). And some of that may depend on how this one does. (It’s notable that the branded restaurant/bar idea has been tried before by ESPN and other sports media companies without a ton of long-term success; however, that equation may change when a sportsbook is factored in.) But it is certainly notable to see the first one launched, and we’ll see if that winds up paving the way for others.

[ESPN Press Room]

 

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.