ESPN API Goes Dark – How Does This Affect Online Sports Betting?

ESPN ApiESPN may have discontinued its public API last December, but if you’re willing to abide by the the sports giant’s terms and conditions, you can sign up to receive a developer code which enables you full access to the wealth of information the company has collected. The APIs allow developers to integrate schedules, headlines, research notes, scores, rankings, and standings, all data that is critical for successful online sports betting.

The move to close public access to the API enables the company tighter control over precisely who can access the data and how it can be used. The announcement does not specifically mention online sports betting, but one can’t but wonder if limiting access to developers who agree to the terms of service isn’t a way for the company to indemnify itself against possible legal issues in the future.

It is interesting to note that the terms and conditions do not explicitly ban apps for sports gambling online. Developers of applications that enables sports gambling online can sign up on ESPN’s developer website. Developers should make sure that they read the terms and conditions carefully before they add the API to their online sports betting apps. ESPN reserves the right to charge for access to their APIs and to revoke access at any time. Use of the API requires developers to include ESPN branding, and apps which use this content must be free. Developers cannot include advertising or in-App purchases. Sports gambling online may be prohibited, as the terms of service state, “You may not (except with ESPN’s prior written approval): (i) use any Content, or the ESPN API or Tools for any commercial purpose.” Further, the terms of service state that developers “agree that [their] Apps will comply with all applicable laws (including, without limitation, privacy laws) of the United States and other countries, as applicable, and you understand that you are solely responsible for ensuring that your Apps comply with such laws.” In other words, if you want to make money off of your app, you have to ask permission first. The company seems to be going out of their way to avoid using the word “gambling” without explicitly banning the practice.

It may be a longshot, and your access may be revoked, essentially killing your app, but intrepid developers should not be deterred from at least trying to gain access to the APIs. After all, closing down the public APIs may just mean that app developers have a few more hoops to jump through. These terms of service may simply be ESPN’s way of ensuring plausible deniability should an app that is “powered by ESPN” (as the required branding says) be investigated. How does closing down the public API affect online gambling? Much in the same way that laws that restrict anything do–they simply make it more difficult. The risks may be higher, but so too then is the potential reward. If anything, forcing developers to register for API access makes app development a sucker bet. After all, with the public API closed in favor of a developer app, if you’re a developer who wants access, what do you honestly have to lose?