Does ESPN Take in More Than a Million From Online Poker Industry?

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Apr/16/2011
ESPN online poker

Following the indictment of three major online poker rooms on Friday, ESPN found itself covering the story with a red face.  Two of those companies – PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker – are major sponsors of ESPN and its intensive (high rated) poker programming.  ESPN is the home for the World Series of Poker.

Sure they acknowledged at the bottom of an article appearing on the ESPN.com website the sponsorship arrangement, without going into much detail.

Ben Koo of Awful Announcing feels they should have done a whole lot more:

Given ESPN has a ton of poker programming including the WSOP series which gets ample amount of run time on ESPN's family of networks, this was obviously a story they reported on and they did. But they forgot to mention one thing: ESPN takes in a likely 8 figure amount of advertising and sponsorship revenue from the companies now embroiled in legal controversy. 

The fact that ESPN takes handfuls of money from these companies is not really a secret nor really that surprising. I don't really think many people even care. I don't care. But they certainly have to acknowledge that relationship now that sh*t has hit the fan with these partner companies. ESPN.com did when running their story on the topic with a disclosure at the end of the article.

It has to be presumed that ESPN entered into an arrangement with these companies not knowing they were engaging in activities mentioned within the US Government’s complaint, specifically fraud and money laundering charges stemming from the misrepresentation of bank transactions and alleged “bribing of a bank”. 

Koo adds:

It's not a trivial relationship that is really a flash in the pan of ESPN's revenue. These companies buy ads in the magazine, on television (the Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu commercials), and have been some of the limited advertisers who have done front page road blocks off the website which is a rare occurrence on espn.com. If Neil Everrett and Sportscenter is going to put on their serious face /"we need to talk" camera angle then they should also cop to the relationship they had in place with the companies in question. When they mention news about ESPN personalities, they're always pretty good about disclosing their relationship and connection to the parties involved in any potential scandal. 

Koo closes by noting that ESPN's failure to disclose the nature of its relationships with online poker "is not only unethical but it's bad journalism. That's why the espn.com article makes that note at the end.  Sportscenter ran the story but ignored the elephant in the room."

- Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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