Weekly reads from CJR for August 5, 2021

Sports media goes all in on gambling

In recent years, sports media has come up against the same hardships as the journalism industry at large: Sports Illustrated laid off nearly half its staff; employees of Deadspin, beleaguered by their corporate bosses, resigned en masse; even The Athletic, once cash-flush, let go of forty-six people. There is, however, the promise of something new: The Athletic recently debuted a section, separate from the rest of its newsroom, focused on sports gambling. At The Ringer, which forged a partnership with FanDuel this spring, Bill Simmons provides game analysis interspersed with betting takes. And Rod Beard, a Detroit News basketball beat writer, discovered a new audience by starting a column on daily fantasy. As he told Danny Funt, “Just like people pay for stock tips, they’ll pay for paywalled content on betting.”

Ever since 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on most sports gambling outside Nevada, more than two dozen states have legalized it, and there’s been a dash to realize the business potential—within sports leagues and at media companies. Funt rounds up the action: “In the past year, NBC Sports negotiated a partnership with a sportsbook called PointsBet worth nearly $500 million. ESPN, Fox, and CBS signed deals with other gambling companies, including old-school casinos like Caesars. DraftKings agreed to pay $50 million to distribute podcasts by Dan Le Batard, formerly of ESPN. In May, the Associated Press announced that it would exclusively reference betting odds from FanDuel.” The profit margins are tantalizing—​​by 2025, legal sports gambling is projected to be worth $10 billion nationwide—but so are the ways to breach journalistic ethics. “The opportunity for journalists to capitalize on behind-the-scenes access would seem irresistible,” Funt writes. “As gambling swallows up sports media, anyone pausing to consider editorial conflicts (or, in the case of bets based on nonpublic information, possible law-breaking) might feel left out.” —Betsy Morais, managing editor


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