CHANCES ARE GOOD: With ESPN deal, Caesars ups the bet on sports betting

With the Vegas Golden Knights here, the Las Vegas Raiders coming and a slate of other major sports events on the calendar, Las Vegas is moving to add “sports hub” to “sports betting capital” on its list of monikers.

Now, sports media megacompany ESPN and casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. are partnering to mesh sports and betting with a studio and partnership — another signal of Caesars’ burgeoning investment in sports betting.

In a statement this month, Bristol, Connecticut-based ESPN said it and Caesars will build a branded broadcast studio at The Linq on the Strip. The studio, to open in 2020, will allow for the creation of sports betting programming including segments for The Daily Wager, an ESPNews show.

Caesars Entertainment data and branding will be integrated across ESPN programming for use in ESPN content. Also, Caesars will become ESPN’s official odds data supplier for TV and digital. The companies added that additional advertising and sponsorship activations will roll out in the coming months and over the deal’s term. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

With its move, ESPN, owned by the Walt Disney Co., will join Bleacher Report, a division of Warner Media, with a studio at a Caesars Entertainment property. Bleacher Report said in February that it will join Caesars in building a studio inside Caesars Palace to accommodate sports betting-related programs and other content. Financial terms were also undisclosed for that deal.

Caesars Entertainment and ESPN touted their deal in a joint statement.

“We’re really excited about the long-term value this collaboration with ESPN will create and thrilled that, starting immediately, ESPN’s platforms will begin featuring odds information generated by Caesars Entertainment,” said Chris Holdren, Caesars Entertainment’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “Millions of sports fans look to ESPN as a sports authority, and Caesars is honored to have been selected for having the best odds to serve those fans. “When you combine that level of exposure alongside the unique opportunity to build a studio along the famed Las Vegas Strip, this deal is truly unique.”

Mike Morrison, ESPN’s vice president of business development, said in the statement: “The sports betting landscape has changed, and fans are coming to us for this kind of information more than ever before. We are poised to expand our coverage in a big way. And working with a category leader like Caesars Entertainment will help us serve these highly engaged, diverse sports fans with the best and most relevant content possible.”

The Daily Wager, an hour-long show airing at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPNews and the ESPN mobile app for smartphones and tablet computers, premiered March 11, a week before the start of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. ESPN betting analyst Doug Kezirian hosts and Las Vegas sports handicapper Preston Johnson, aka the “Sports Cheetah,” contributes.

ESPN also has the Behind the Bets podcast during football season and the “Bad Beats” segment on SportsCenter, the network’s daily highlights show.

Positioned to prosper

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars on display at the LINQ during NASCAR Champions Week in 2015. (Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau)

Caesars Entertainment has been capitalizing on sports betting beyond these studio deals. In January, Caesars entered a multiyear deal to become the National Football League’s official casino sponsor.

The deal, outlined in a Jan. 3 statement by the league, gives Caesars the exclusive right to use NFL trademarks, including the name “Super Bowl,” in the United States and the United Kingdom. Although financial terms weren’t disclosed, The Associated Press has said it is for three years and is worth $30 million per year.

Furthermore, Bloomberg News and others reported in February that Caesars bought a stake in fantasy sports giant Draft Kings in a market access deal. And, as Crain’s New York Business and other media outlets reported, Caesars Entertainment in October entered a deal to brand a lounge at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, the home arena for the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils.

Caesars Entertainment’s partnerships with ESPN and Bleacher Report seem to make sense given sports betting’s popularity and future potential.

The American Gaming Association, a casino industry’s main lobbying arm, estimates that in the past year about $8 billion was wagered in legal sports betting markets. And, Bloomberg News reports, Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a gambling research company, estimates U.S. sports betting revenue could hit $6.5 billion by 2023 as it becomes legal in more states.

Besides Nevada, where sports betting has been legal for years, seven other states — Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia — have legalized sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban on the practice in non-Nevada locales a year ago. Sports betting launches are pending in six other states: Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, New York and Oregon.

[RELATED: Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority seeks volunteers for major sports events. ]

Caesars Entertainment’s ventures with ESPN and beyond are also capitalizing on Las Vegas’ growing status as a sports programming hub. The city already has the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights and will welcome the NFL’s Raiders in 2020 from Oakland, California. The Raiders will move into a new $1.8 billion stadium months after the 2020 NFL Draft, set to take place in Las Vegas. 

The National Basketball Association Summer League has been a Las Vegas highlight since 2004 and the valley also hosts a slate of NASCAR races, the Ultimate Fighting Championship college basketball tournaments and Top Rank boxing. Also, ESPN televises the World Series of Poker and the sports network’s ESPN Events owns the annual Las Vegas Bowl college football game.

“Las Vegas has always been a sports town, but even more so lately,” ESPN’s Morrison told Las Vegas Newswire in an email interview. “Having a hub in Vegas will allow us not only the ability to be close to any of the action in Vegas, but the studio itself will be situated right on the Strip and provides fantastic brand exposure.”

A Bleacher Report study suggests Caesars’ moves with ESPN and Bleacher Report will likely pay off with millennial customers. Business Insider reported that a Bleacher Report study this year found that 63 percent of sports fans age 21 to 34 find sports gambling socially acceptable, compared with 51 percent of the general public.

“We have been actively pursuing opportunities for growth in this space, especially as more states legalize sports betting,” Morrison wrote to Newswire. “We have — for some time — recognized fans’ interest in information about sports betting as growing. Odds information can be both an important data point for some fans and factor into our storytelling. And our coverage has grown over the years to serve that.”  

To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.

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by Matthew Crowley/Contributor to Las Vegas Newswire

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