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Iger's return to Disney complicates sports betting deal at ESPN

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro has poured cold water on those expecting any incoming sports betting deal with DraftKings.

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Speaking at a sports business conference, Pitaro discussed reports that ESPN was nearing a deal with the US sports betting giant, telling reporters present that: “We’re not going to take people’s money; we’re not going to set lines and spreads and odds.

“But the idea of leaning in a bit more here and creating a more seamless experience is definitely on the table.”

Pitaro’s comments come following a significant change in direction for the Disney-owned sporting broadcaster.

Any ideas Pitaro has of ESPN making inroads into gambling are complicated by Disney’s recent change in leadership. Bob Chapek, the recently removed CEO of Disney, was understood to support the idea of ESPN signing a sports betting deal – allegedly seeking as much as $3bn for any potential agreement.

However, following Chapek’s quick removal as CEO – following accusations that he tried to hide Disney+ losses by manipulating other budgets – Bob Iger returned to the role, despite his initial retirement in 2020.

This turnaround means any sports betting deal is in serious doubt.

Iger is understood to believe gambling isn’t a look he wants for any Disney-owned brands, saying to investors in 2019 that ESPN’s role was to “provide information” – and that he didn’t foresee Disney “facilitating gambling in any way.”

Despite being out of the role for almost three years, Iger’s tenure as CEO of Disney previously led the company through one of its strongest eras.

Now having to navigate this vast shift in ethos at Disney, Pitaro acknowledged that previous plans were probably subject to change, saying: “We have to consider things from a Disney perspective as well.”

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