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, as part of that arrangement, Deadspin is supplying a URL to Bell’s response to the allegations in the article: RJ Bell’s Response to This Article. Deadspin stands by its reporting.
Full wagering is illegal in 49 states, but sports betting is big business, with countless each year–and everyone knows it. Lines and moves are discussed openly on TV, and covers are all mentioned right next to match stories. Media outlets nationwide turn to a handful of individuals for insight and predictions into point spreads and odds. And the man they seem to more than any other is RJ Bell, a self-proclaimed modern-day Jimmy the Greek.
Various titles, some others and generous absolutely untrue –gambling expert, professional handicapper, Vegas oddsmaker–are utilized to spot Bell when he’s interviewed, but his function as head of Pregame.com is always included and seldom explained. Pregame, that Bell started in 2005, sells selections. Bell does not sell his own selections any more–they did really well–but rather oversees a revolving cast of two dozen men who do. Bell says they are winning pro bettors, and by paying for their guidance, the consequence is that you will triumph, too. After all, they do this for a living.
From the industry if not in the media, Bell’s military of handicappers are well known, usually derisively, as touts, and Bell is chief tout of the most visible and very possibly the most profitable pick-selling operation.
But unlike his forerunners–noteworthy loudmouths in the’80s and’90s like Jack Price and Stu Feiner who came across like pro wrestlers–Bell is not braying on TV infomercials, promising to spoil your bookmaker. He doesn’t have to. Mainstream media now attracts the heads of these services on atmosphere and moves them off as analysts, devoting people such as Bell flows of new customers and free advertising a salesman could scarcely imagine.
Sportscasters and scribes present 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 nationwide 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 at 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 column for Grantland. On Twitter, his followers more than 117,000 to variety. After him, he says, is similar to having”a chair at the sportsbook.”
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