21+ Rule In Massachusetts A Possible Conundrum For ESPN, Fanatics

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In the week since ESPN BET unveiled its new logo, the design has been roasted on Twitter and a social betting company says it is considering legal action against the Worldwide Leader. Going forward, ESPN BET might have another issue to deal with: the question of where and when 21 verbiage should appear on the betting logo and, potentially, the traditional ESPN logo.
Regulators in Massachusetts and Ohio have particularly tough regulations around advertising. This year, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) fined operators for everything from sending mailers to underage individuals to discussing wagering on college football shows near college campuses.
In June, the OCCC added a regulation banning sports betting promotions during non-wagering transactions, like purchasing team gear or ordering food. The rule means that Fanatics cannot offer betting promotions to customers buying team jerseys, or Buffalo Wild Wings, which has a deal with BetMGM, can’t offer betting promos when customers are ordering food online.
But among the most rigorous regulations in the U.S. is the MGC’s rule that any wagering logo within view of a major sports stadium (or simply within the venue) must bear a 21 warning. Last month, DraftKings petitioned the MGC to waive this rule for its crown logo, which it uses not only for betting, but also for daily fantasy, NBA, and branded merchandise.
The petition was unsuccessful, meaning the company must now revise or remove its logos at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and TD Garden.
General logos could come under scrutiny
A critical part of the discussion with MGC staff was that DraftKings’ general logo is also associated with sports betting, so it would require 21 verbiage. However, the commission made an exception for the DraftKings Sports Zone restaurant at Gillette Stadium after the company argued that putting 21 on it would imply that only those over 21 could enter the space. The venue is more restaurant than bar, however, and allows minors on its premises.
The argument might be one for ESPN and Fanatics to consider going forward. Fanatics Sportsbook is already live in Massachusetts, and PENN Entertainment has plans to rebrand its current Barstool Sportsbook as ESPN BET as early as next month.

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The DraftKings decision seems to point to the idea that any ESPN BET or Fanatics Sportsbook logos in or within view of Massachusetts sporting venues will need a 21 moniker on them, and also raises the question about whether or not a standard ESPN or Fanatics merchandise logo would require the same. Both companies have established non-betting businesses and logos that are driving their entry into wagering, and both use their original general-purpose logos as part of their wagering logos.
Neither ESPN nor Fanatics have any permanent signage at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, or TD Garden. But both have had temporary signage outside of Fenway Park within the last 18 months. And now that both companies are in the betting business, it’s possible the MGC will ask for 21 verbiage on non-sportsbook advertisements due to the similarity of the logos.

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There are no similar rules for casinos in either Massachusetts or Ohio and, in 2022, the DraftKings logo sat on a billboard above an MGM Resorts logo on the Green Monster at Fenway. That MGM Resorts logo would not have been subject to the 21 rule. For the 2023 season, MGM unveiled a BetMGM logo on the Green Monster that most certainly will, like DraftKings, be subject to the regulation.
“It’s an issue that stands out there and it’s going to be part of the conversation, but it shouldn’t be,” Las Vegas-based consultant Brendan Bussmann of B Global told Sports Handle. “It singles out sports betting as different from any [other type of gambling].”
Gaming commission hasn’t broached subject
The MGC next month is poised to review some documents detailing the relationship between ESPN BET and PENN Entertainment, which owns the wagering platform the Worldwide Leader will be marketing. Questions about ESPN’s College GameDay football preview have already surfaced, and it seems likely the commission will make its discomfort known if betting and odds are discussed on an episode being shot on or near a college a campus.
The commission has not yet begun to consider how to handle ESPN BET’s new logo. But according to media coordinator Thomas Mills, “The issue of logos is an interesting one as we move forward. I don’t know that there is much speculation that I can share beyond that these issues will absolutely be conversations during those public meetings.
“Like with Barstool, I suspect that the commissioners will be interested in the relationship the sports wagering arm has with ESPN the media company and how one will promote the other.”

ESPN BET logo is a no-go for BroThrow. @brothrowbets @SteveRuddock
(I also want to note I came thisclose to appropriating @peteroverzet’s “Don’t dupe me, bro” line for purposes of the headline, because, in fact, this bro got dupe’d.) https://t.co/buf7M5nR7C
— Jeff Edelstein (@jeffedelstein) October 23, 2023

Both ESPN and PENN declined to comment, though how they will navigate this issue in Massachusetts is surely a consideration. The issue has not come up for Fanatics so far, either because there are no permanent ads at the major sports venues or because the company has complied with the 21 rule.
“While I appreciate the commission’s decision on DraftKings, this potentially is an issue going forward with ESPN,” Bussmann said. “Precedent has been set by the commission on this, and while a majority of people are going to think it’s senseless, [ESPN and Fanatics] are going to have find a way to jump through hoops for this and it’s going to become an issue.”

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