Sports betting coverage takes a lot of heat, particularly on social media. Spend 10 minutes on Twitter after a big exposé in the New York Times and you will see nearly endless posts about how the mainstream media does not get the industry and they have an axe to grind.
But it is hardly just the mainstream media that takes heat. Even sports betting industry sites frequently take heat, with writers either being called shills for certain sites or in the pocket of the industry, or not having any clue at all. There is something of a mistaken belief, perhaps driven by the political climate, that everyone and everything has an agenda.
The reality is this: be careful what you wish for because like it or not, the sports betting industry is under a microscope and if the people who follow the industry do not cover it, then someone else who does not understand it will — and then people will really not like the stories being told.
Many people were highly critical of the New York Times coverage of the industry, particularly over the last year. Some of the criticism was probably fair, but a lot of it was simply a defense mechanism to some difficult truths that were being pointed out by the best-known newspaper in the world, which was sharing thoughts held by many around the country.
History lesson from the early days
I started writing for this website roughly a week after the Murphy decision, meaning few here have written longer than me. Legal Sports Report first caught my eye back in probably 2015, or maybe even earlier.
It was a site that was unlike anything else in the US market at the time, providing daily coverage of what was at the time the biggest sports gambling-related market question of the day, daily fantasy sports. It also did coverage of a variety of other matters like the Murphy/Christie case and the esports skins gambling industry that gripped the mainstream media’s attention, at least temporarily.
In my full-time job, I still spend a lot of time writing about gambling, but a lot fewer people read what I write there than what I write here. In fact, over the last five years, I have been shocked at how many people at all levels of government and industry rely on this site (and undoubtedly a few others) to get news about what is actually happening in the industry.
Write or wrong in sports betting?
I can only speak for myself (but I certainly believe it to be true for virtually everyone else on this side of the industry) that no one has ever told me I cannot write something, or how to write something, or that I cannot say something about a company. In no particular order, I do not think Fanatics or ESPN Bet are going to be top-two competitors in the sports betting world, I think it could be time for multiple top sportsbooks to consider a change in leadership, and I have no idea why anyone thinks New York is going to lower their tax rate.
These are all my opinions and they might not be right, but no one has ever told me I cannot have them.
So what is the point?
Well, sports media and media in general are in a bad spot. The New York Times, which so much of gambling Twitter seems to take issue with, just folded their sports department into The Athletic, after apparently letting go of 40 Athletic writers.
The number of sites covering sports is dwindling. More and more information is just aggregated, so even if you might not care for what the sports gambling media always has to say, you should appreciate that they are covering the industry.
Coverage of the industry is necessary if it is going to survive, but if that coverage is uncritical cheerleading, then it is worthless. No one will respect it.
No one is coming to save sports betting news coverage
The mainstream media is not going to cover the sports betting industry on a day-to-day basis. Hell, some teams do not even get daily coverage from local papers anymore.
Contrary to the views of people in some circles of the internet, the earth does not revolve around the size of New Jersey‘s handle or Ohio‘s tax rate for much of the country. All they see of the sports betting industry is when things blow up. If daily coverage of the industry goes away, that will be all that is left. Decision-makers are reading this site and others like it.
All this is to say: if the sports gambling industry wants to paint a rosy picture of itself, it should do things that merit that coverage, neither the New York Times, nor any of the industry sites, are going to carry water for the industry simply because it exists.