Update (January 16, 2019): In June 2017, RJ Bell and Pregame filed a defamation lawsuit over this article. The parties agreed to settle the case and, within that arrangement, Deadspin is providing a link to Bell’s response to the allegations in the article: RJ Bell’s Response to This report. Deadspin stands by its coverage.
Complete wagering is illegal in 49 countries, but sports betting is big business, with countless wagered each year–and everybody knows it. Lines and moves are discussed openly on TV, and covers are cited right next to game stories. Media outlets nationally turn to a couple of individuals for predictions and insight into point spreads and odds. And the guy 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–gambling specialist, professional handicapper, Vegas oddsmaker–are used to spot Bell when he’s interviewed, however his role as head of Pregame.com is always included and rarely explained. Pregame, which Bell started in 2005, sells sports-betting picks. Bell does not sell his own decisions any more–they did really well–but instead oversees a revolving cast of two dozen guys who do. Bell says they are winning expert bettors, and by paying to get their advice, the implication is that you will triumph, too. After all, they do this for a living.
From the industry if not in the media, Bell’s army of handicappers are well known, generally derisively, as touts, and Bell is chief tout of the most visible and quite possibly the most lucrative pick-selling operation.
But unlike his forerunners–notable loudmouths in the’80s and’90s like Jack Price and Stu Feiner who came across like professional wrestlers–Bell is not braying on TV infomercials, promising to spoil your bookmaker. He doesn’t need to. Mainstream media now brings the heads of these services on atmosphere and moves them off as analysts, affording individuals such as Bell streams of new customers and free advertising a salesman could barely imagine.
Sportscasters and scribes introduce Bell since 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 show; watch him at primetime on SportsCenter, CBS, ABC, CNBC, CNN, or even at South by Southwest; and locate him quoted regularly at the New York Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and any neighborhood rag or blog that calls him. A number of decades back, he wrote a routine betting pillar for Grantland. His followers more than 117,000 to variety. After him, he says, is like having”a chair in the sportsbook.”
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