In November 2014, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wrote an op ed in the New York Times NYT +1.2% calling for the legalization of sports gambling to allow fans to place small, friendly wagers on games they enjoy. If that were the way the sports gambling industry actually advertised their products, perhaps we would be in a better place. However, the messaging about sports gambling in this country is getting darker and more concerning—especially as the separation between gambling businesses and journalists has become more obscure, and more articles are published that may at first seem like traditional journalism, but actually serve to promote gambling behaviors—all without clear disclosures as to their nature.
To illustrate this point, Darren Rovell, who is a former sports business reporter for ESPN, has amassed an incredible more than two million followers on Twitter based on his historic success breaking sports business news. However, after leaving the world of traditional sports business writing, Rovell was hired by the Action Network—a website that offers sports betting information and advertises sports betting websites. Of course, many still perceive him as a traditional journalist.
Yesterday, Rovell posted an article on the Action Network website, which he then tweeted to his more than two-million followers. The article describes a purported third-grade elementary school teacher who he claims bet more than $90,000 on Morocco making the World Cup quarterfinals, and won more than $1,000,000 when they did so. Whether this story constitutes newsworthy sports business journalism is debatable. However, its negative impact on some readers—especially given its embedded sports gambling links and absent any conspicuous disclosures—seems far less so.