Around the country, sports journalists are using their deep knowledge and insights about the sports world to benefit Vegas casino sports-betting operators. Sportsbook media and platforms operated by sports betting operators are scooping up journalists from mainstream news sites to bolster their coverage, provide their patrons with top-of-the-line analysis and entice would-be sports bettors to their sites. For their part, the journalists are thrilled with the new job opportunities which offer job security and, often, better pay.
One of the biggest names to make the move was Teddy Greenstein who, this summer, switched his work email from the Chicago Tribune, where he made a name for himself for his two-plus decades of sports coverage, to the PointsBet sports-betting company. Like others, Greenstein needed to find a way to fill in after pandemic-caused furloughs caused the sports world to come to a halt.
Greenstein was a well-known figure at the Tribune but now he’s pegging his career on the future of the legal sports betting industry. Greenstein will be producing videos about best bets for various sports events and will be making “how to” videos that explain to prospective bettors how to bet as well as making the football picks for which he is best known.
Greenstein’s assessment of the legal sports betting industry seems to be shared by everyone. In 2018 the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that made sports betting illegal in all states other than Nevada (where it had been operating legally for many years). Since then, 19 states plus Washington DC have legalized sports betting and there are moves to legalize it in another 27 states.
Sports betting is big business. Analysts say that in the next four years, the sports betting market will grow by $144.44 billion, with sports betting now accounting for more than 40% of global gambling revenue. With a growth rate of $10 billion per year, America has the world’s fastest growing sports betting market and is projected to take a significantly increasing share of the world market in the years to come. New Jersey, where legalized sports betting started only in 2018 after the SCOTUS decision, saw $800 million in sports bets in October 2020.
Sports Media Companies
Sports media companies have begun to play a significant role in the sports betting industry. Gambling operator Penn National Gaming owns a large stake in Barstool and Fox Sports is operating its own betting company, FoxBet. Media giants like CBS, NBS and ESPN have entered into lucrative partnerships with some of the major sportsbooks.
Bally’s gaming company sold Sinclair a stake in their operation and Sinclair is now planning to rebrand its 21 regional sports networks as “Bally’s.” According to Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley, gambling will transform the sports industry as advertising and cable bundle fees shrink. “It’s a third revenue stream to maintain the growth of the industry,” said Ripley.
In effect, the gambling companies are positioning themselves as their own media companies. Well-known sportswriters can help them achieve their goal by providing their expertise. As sports media struggles, the lure of the sportsbook media is sure to entice more sportswriters away from their traditional news organizations.
Len Mead, who headed NBC SportsBoston, has moved to PointsBet and Ryan Spoon, formerly of ESPN, will now be providing content for BetMGM. Yaniv Sherman, head of business development at 888 Holdings, told the Washington Post, “We’re all media companies. We’ve realized we need to be producing content.”
Follow the Money
Gambling companies are flush with advertising funds right now and they seem more than ready to spend it on investments that will keep their coffers full. They are increasingly betting on the input that the journalists bring with them to provide their platforms with the type of reporting that will draw bettors to their sites.
As the sports betting industry grows, the demand for sports-specific journalistic skills could grow as well including journalists who specialize on reporting about specific sports, specific leagues and specific teams. “The places that have the money to hire the best writers right now are the folks that are serving the gambling audience,” said Brian Musburger, lead broadcaster and managing editor of VSiN Vegas Sports and Information Network. “So it’s interesting.”
Musburger has pointed out that the strategy has risks too. Where do the reports from sportsbook journalists go? To the oddmakers? To the customers? Will the leagues agree to have journalists who work for sports betting operators in the locker rooms? And what about information that is made public but only to a select group, say data about injuries, via a gambling app. “I don’t think the leagues will go for it,” says Musburger.
Thanks to the networks that aggregate breaking news, such scoops might not be of much use to a sportsbook, says Chat Millman, head of media at Action Network and former editor-in-chief of ESPN Magazine. But a personality who has a large social media following could increase the sports betting operator’s visibility.
The expansion of sports betting may not be dependent on professional sportwriters, say some observers because what most bettors are looking for is a technologically-advanced app that makes it easy to place a bet, especially in-game, which is where the market is moving. According to Aubrey Levy of Canadian-based gambling and sports media company The Score, “Our opinion is we can do a lot more with product than with big-name hires.”
And of course, regardless of what information is coming and from where it’s coming, bettors can always shop around for better odds and lines across the marketplace.
Yaniv Sherman of 888 Holdings said that as the market moves forward, he expects to see more partnerships emerge as players on all sides of the table recognize the advantages of such combinations. Just last year the Athletic, a sports media company with 1 million subscriptions told the Washington Post that it had no plans to pursue gambling partnerships or content. Recently, a company spokesperson said that the Athletic is reevaluating.