One day before PENN Entertainment’s ESPN-branded mobile sportsbook, ESPN BET, was set to go live in 17 states, UNLV announced that ESPN had donated $200,000 to the school’s International Gaming Institute for research related to responsible sports betting.
According to a press release, the funds will kickstart the development of “a pioneering program dedicated to the study of, education on, and advisory services related to sports betting and its intersection with the media.”
“We are thrilled to have ESPN’s support for research, education, and innovation in the responsible, sustainable representation of sports betting in the media,” Brett Abarbanel, the IGI’s executive director, said in the release. “The growth of betting and gambling subjects in U.S. media have exploded in the past five years. So, too, have calls for extended research and thought leadership alongside this proliferation of content.”
Described as a “collaborative effort” between ESPN and the IGI, the joint venture will focus on five key areas:
Enhancing Responsible Gambling: The program will conduct comprehensive reviews of current regulatory practices and recommend best practices to increase engagement in responsible gambling for both employees and customers.
Developing Evidence-Based Insights: Researchers will provide evidence-based insights on the development of policies, messaging, technology components, and more. IGI will create open-call research fellowships for international scholars in gambling to encourage global impact.
Responsible Marketing Practices: A structured review process will be established to assess marketing and promotional materials, ensuring responsible marketing practices and the development of best practice policies.
Creating Responsible Gambling Program Parameters: Collaborating with stakeholders, the program will advise on the creation of named, marketable, and easily identifiable responsible gambling programs.
Educating Industry Leaders: This initiative will also educate executive leadership in the media sector on best practices in sports betting, including responsible gambling, responsible marketing, advertising policies, broadcast standards, and risk management.
ESPN a different animal
Abarbanel was in San Diego on business when Sports Handle caught up with her early Monday afternoon.
“With F1 this week, the whole city is sort of figuring life out,” she explained, adding that her colleagues back in Vegas were mostly working from home with the auto racing festivities threatening to throw a wrench into just about any commute.
When asked to elaborate on the IGI’s partnership with ESPN, she said it was mainly about “making sure we are looking at, as an academic institute, what are some of the best practices for how gambling is presented in media and sports media. This includes responsible gambling — everything from advertising presence to discussion of gambling within the actual broadcast content. There will be a lot that’s relevant to what a sports media organization can do.”
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While noting that ESPN BET isn’t the first example of a media organization partnering up with a sports betting operator, she said she considers ESPN unique in that it “has all these other entities — for example, Disney. It has these elements that might not be present in other organizations. That’s something we’re trying to embrace by including all these other disciplines.”
Specifically, she said, “We have a call for proposals that should go out this week or shortly after Thanksgiving for fellowships to ensure that we have all of these different disciplines looking at this area. This is everything from journalism to addiction research to people who work in sports law and mathematics, because what’s often included in broadcasts is stats.”
Before running to her next meeting, Abarbanel added, “We’re given this incredible opportunity to be able to tap into the expertise of an organization like ESPN when we have questions about how things are done, which lets us do better research and make sure our work is grounded in reality.”
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