How America’s Favorite Sports Betting Expert Turned A Sucker’s Game Into An Industry

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How America’s Favorite Sports Betting Expert Turned A Sucker’s Game Into An Industry

Update (January 16, 2019): In June 2017, RJ Bell and Pregame filed a defamation litigation over this report. The parties agreed to settle the situation and, as part of the arrangement, Deadspin is providing a URL to Bell’s answer to the allegations from the article: RJ Bell’s Response to This report. Deadspin stands by its reporting.

Full wagering is illegal in 49 states, but sports betting is big business, with countless wagered each year–and everyone knows it. Lines and motions are discussed openly on TV, and covers are cited right alongside match stories. Media outlets nationwide turn to a handful of people for predictions and insight into point spreads and odds. And the man they look to more than any other is RJ Bell, a self-proclaimed modern-day Jimmy the Greek.

Various titles, some others and generous outright false–betting expert, professional handicapper, Vegas oddsmaker–are utilized to identify Bell when he’s interviewed, however his function as head of Pregame.com is always contained and seldom clarified. Pregame, which Bell began in 2005, sells sports-betting picks. Bell doesn’t sell his own selections any more–they never did really well–but rather manages a revolving cast of two dozen men who do. Bell says they’re winning expert bettors, and by paying for their guidance, the consequence is you will triumph, also. After all, they do so for a living.

In the industry or even in the press, Bell’s army of handicappers are well known, usually derisively, as touts, and Bell is principal harmonious of the most visible and quite possibly the most profitable pick-selling operation.

But unlike his forerunners–notable loudmouths in the’80s and’90s such as Jack Price and Stu Feiner who came around like pro wrestlers–Bell isn’t braying on TV infomercials, promising to spoil your bookmaker. He does not need to. Mainstream media now attracts the heads of these services on air and moves them off as analysts, devoting people such as Bell streams of new customers and free advertisements a salesman could scarcely imagine.

Scribes and sportscasters alike introduce Bell as Las Vegas’ oracle. You can hear him on Stephen A. Smith’s Sirius show, KROQ in Los Angeles, ESPN radio in Las Vegas, Yahoo’s national networks, NBC Sports Radio, and Colin Cowherd’s nationally syndicated Fox Sports 1 series; see him at primetime on SportsCenter, CBS, ABC, CNBC, CNN, or even in South by Southwest; and find him quoted regularly in the New York Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and any local rag or blog that calls him. A few decades ago, he wrote a regular gaming pillar for Grantland. On Twitter, his followers number more than 117,000. Following him, he says, is similar to having”a seat in the sportsbook.”

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