Disney CEO: Company Won’t Be ‘Getting Involved In The Business Of Gambling’ Soon

Written By Dustin Gouker on February 8, 2019
ESPN sports betting plans

The chairman of The Walt Disney Company does not see his company — which owns ESPN — getting into ‘facilitating gambling’ any time soon.

That came from Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger in fielding a question about sports betting in Disney’s most recent earnings call.

What Disney said on sports betting

Here is what Iger said in response to Disney’s aspirations on sports gambling in the call:

 I don’t see The Walt Disney Company, certainly in the near term, getting involved in the business of gambling, in effect, by facilitating gambling in any way.

I do think that there’s plenty of room, and ESPN has done some of this already and they may do more to provide information in coverage of sports, as a for instance, that would be relevant to and of particular interest to gambling and not be shy about it, basically being fairly overt about it. But getting into the business of gambling, I rather doubt it.

The comments come after a decent amount of rumors that ESPN had been poking around in aspects of the sports gambling business.

Not ‘facilitating’ sports gambling?

Clearly, ESPN and Disney will continue to try to capture eyeballs with sports betting-related content. Sports gambling is already a part of ESPN’s coverage on its website, and it comes up in TV productions in passing.

But what is the line in the sand past which ESPN won’t cross? ESPN at one point considered investing in DraftKings, back when it was only a daily fantasy sports site, only to instead opt for an advertising deal of $250 million. (That exclusive deal ended soon after it began.)

“Facilitating gambling” is a pretty wide net, so what does it mean?

  • It seems pretty obvious that means Disney/ESPN is not getting into the bookmaking business by acquiring an existing bookmaker or developing one itself.
  • More gambling in existing shows and perhaps shows focusing entirely on gambling is likely in the mix. Fox Sports was an early adopter with its show “Lock It In” on FS1, and Turner Broadcasting just announced a deal with Caesars Entertainment for a gambling partnership via Bleacher Report.
  • Advertising and sending traffic to sportsbooks would seem not to be OK under Iger, as ESPN has served sports betting advertisements in recent months to New Jersey residents. More of that type of revenue could be on the table as sports gambling expands in the US.

In any event, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be seeing an ESPN Sportsbook any time soon.

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Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.

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