Detroit casino unions launch digital campaign urging boycott of sports betting platforms as ESPN Bet goes live

As ESPN Bet, the newly rebranded online sportsbook operated by Penn Entertainment, officially commences operations in 17 states across the US, the Detroit casino unions have initiated a digital advertising campaign urging for a boycott of the platform. The campaign encourages sports fans to refrain from placing bets until there is a resolution on worker wages and benefits, and until the ongoing strike is resolved.

Last week, the Detroit Casino Council (DCC), which represents workers at Detroit casinos, urged the public to boycott four sports betting and online casino platforms affiliated with the city’s three gambling venues, currently experiencing worker strikes. These platforms include FanDuel (Motor City Casino), ESPN Bet and Hollywood iCasino (Hollywood at Greek Town), and BetMGM (MGM Grand Detroit).

In Michigan, online gambling licenses must be held by brick-and-mortar casinos, and the council posits that some users of online sports betting and casino applications might not be aware of the ongoing strike.

Penn Entertainment is sinking $1.5 billion just for the rights to use the ESPN brand for its online sports betting platform, but they won’t invest in paying a fair wage at their Michigan casino, where workers are on strike,” said D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE International Union.

“The casino operators could end the strike today if they would agree to give workers the pay, benefits, and protections they deserve. The Detroit Casino Council is calling on sports fans to not use ESPN BET and other apps associated with the operators of the three struck casinos until the strike is over: ESPN Bet is a loser for Michigan if PENN won’t invest in our communities.”

Sports betting apps such as Caesars Sportsbook, Caesars Palace Online Casino, WynnBET, DraftKings, Sports Illustrated Sportsbook, and others are not part of the boycott.

The DCC is comprised of a negotiating committee consisting of five unions, which include Unite Here Local 24, the UAW, Teamsters Local 1038, Operating Engineers Local 324, and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters.

On September 29, the DCC secured a vote from 99% of unionized workers across the casinos authorizing the negotiating committee to call for a strike. On October 17, unionized casino workers at MGM Grand, MotorCity Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown launched a wall-to-wall strike affecting 3,700 casino workers, including dealers, cleaning staff, food and beverage workers, valets, engineers, and more.

The workers are demanding healthcare protection, wage adjustments in line with the rising cost of living, enhanced job security, and equitable workloads. It is the first casino strike in Detroit’s history.

Detroit’s casino workers sacrificed raises and shouldered heavier workloads so the industry could recover from the pandemic. In September 2020, workers agreed to a three-year contract extension with minimal wage increases to help the industry get back on its feet,” the DCC said in a statement.

“Since then, Detroit casino workers have received only 3% raisesbut inflation in Detroit has risen 20%. In contrast, industry gaming revenues have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels to reach a new record high.”

In 2022, the Detroit casino industry generated $2.27 billion in gaming revenue from in-person and online gaming, and the industry is on track for another record-breaking year in 2023.