Business By The Books: Will ESPN Bet Parent Be Caught In Proxy Battle?

Written By

Updated on


ESPN Bet is promoting its way to a decent market share in the few state sports betting reports since the brand launched in mid-November.

But growing the new sports betting product born from Penn Entertainment and Disney‘s partnership could take a backseat for the national casino operator, with institutional investor HG Vora interested in board representation.

HG Vora, which holds an 18.5% ownership position in Penn between stock and a cash-settled swap agreement, said it requested the right to designate multiple directors to help Penn “realize its full potential” in a form 13D filed Thursday.

“The Reporting Persons have deep experience investing in the casino and online gaming sectors, are long-term shareholders of the Issuer, and believe the Issuer’s Common Stock is significantly undervalued,” HG Vora said.

Proxy battle can divide attention

Proxy battles do not always lead to organizational changes. A serious push for change, though, can certainly divide the attention in the C-suite from strictly focusing on business.

HG Vora said it expects to have discussions in the future with management, the board and “other representatives.” The company could also take other actions, including proposing changes to the board and/or management, proposing changes to Penn’s charter, and soliciting proxies from other shareholders to back up its position.

Even more eyes will now be on Penn’s stock price. The stock ended 2023 at $26.02, down 13.8% from its opening price on Jan. 3, 2022.

Penn looked to be in store for a much bleaker drop, though. The stock hit its 52-week closing low of $18.41 on Oct. 27, but was boosted by Penn’s third quarter earnings just days later and the launch of ESPN Bet on Nov. 14.

BetMGM, NHL expand sports betting partnership

BetMGM extended and expanded its partnership with the NHL, which now includes the right to use league trademarks to design branded online casino games.

The joint venture between MGM Resorts and Entain will also receive “significant branding” in national broadcasts with signage visible throughout the regular and post-season.

BetRivers launches DE online sports betting

Christmas came late for sports bettors in Delaware when Rush Street Interactive finally launched online sports betting in the First State.

Delaware was true to its nickname in the days following the end fall of PASPA in 2018 as it became the first state outside of Nevada to accept a legal sports bet after the decision.

The state then waited more than five and a half years before it launched online sports betting. Rush Street won its bid for BetRivers to be the only operator in the state earlier this year.

Whether it remains the only operator could come down to the legislature. A legislative committee said it would be better financially for the state to allow a multi-operator market.

Playtech launches content with Boyd

Playtech is providing Boyd‘s Stardust-branded online casino with slots, tables and live table games.

Boyd operates its iGaming in-house following its acquisition of Pala Interactive in 2022. The company is partnered with FanDuel for sports betting and holds a 5% equity stake in the company.