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Disney-run gambling? What would Walt think?

September 14, 2022 World Industry UpdatesSports

It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing you expected to hear from a family-friendly, positive-values company like Disney.

CEO Bob Chapek was asked at the D23 fan-service fiesta in Anaheim the other day about sports betting. After all, the company owns ESPN, the high-profile sports network.

“We’re working very hard on that,” Chapek answered.

One can almost picture Mickey Mouse’s eyes going wide in astonishment.

Not that it’s a bad business decision.

Sports betting and online gambling are clearly gaining traction in the United States. A number of state and federal bills are aimed at facilitating a domestic sports-betting industry.

One recent report found that the sports betting market will grow from about $77 billion last year to more than $167 billion by 2029.

Chapek himself noted that sports betting is a frequent request from Disney’s under-35 sports fans.

Adding gambling functionality to the ESPN app, in other words, is a smart move.

But is it the right one?

Chapek told Deadline that “there’s so many dimensions of sports and we’re passionate about it, and we have a plan.”

One of those dimensions, however, is that gambling can be addictive — and can ruin the lives of individuals and families.

Not to be glib, but if a wholesome brand like Disney can embrace gambling in the name of entertainment, couldn’t it make the same argument for Disney-branded alcohol or cigarettes?

After all, these too are leisure products that many people enjoy and ask for.

What about Disney weed? A Disney escort service?

I know such suggestions sound ludicrous, but are they any more far-fetched than a Disney-run casino (which is essentially what a sports-betting app is).

In the end, financial considerations will win out, and ESPN undoubtedly will be a leading player in online sports gambling.

But make no mistake: That’s no spoonful of sugar.

It’s a bottle of trouble for anyone who gets hooked.

Source: https://ktla.com/news/local-news/disney-run-gambling-what-would-walt-think/
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