Playing The Odds: Most Top Publishers Limit Gambling On Sports

It should be a no-brainer, but some observers wonder if reporters are allowed to gamble on sports, judging by an article in NiemanLab.   

Many organizations have addressed gambling in formal guidelines, Sarah Scire writes. But some haven’t.  

Take Gannett. According to Scire, the sprawling newspaper empire leaves the decision to bet on sports they cover to the individual employee. It sounds like an honor system.   

It’s different at the very top of the journalistic heap: The New York Times and The Athletic bar reporters covering leagues and teams from wagering on their beat. But The Athletic has one exception: 

“Those staffers who work regularly as part of our Betting vertical desk and need to understand the ins and outs of sports wagering to remain experts in the field are allowed to wager on sports. However, those staffers or freelance contributors must not write or produce audio about companies they may have a relationship with outside The Athletic to avoid any conflict of interest.” 



The Boston Globe also does not allow reporters to bet on sports they cover.

According to NiemanLab, ESPN also has a detailed policy. 

“Do not use, disclose, or provide access to non-public information that you have been exposed to as part of your job (“Confidential Information”), for any betting-related purposes, including influencing others to place bets or disclosing such information to any sportsbook operator.” 

ESPN explains that “this includes but is not limited to: (a) a player’s injury status or participation in a game or event; or (b) any other information about officials, players, coaches or management.”

That’s more like it. 

The legendary Damon Runyon, for all his brilliance, was a compulsive gambler, his biographers report. Moreover, he helped promote prizefights and probably had conflicts of interest behind the scenes. 

But that was a century before our modern J schools started codifying ethics for young reporters.

There is no way for a publisher to know if a journalist is gambling, nor if they are using recreational drugs, for that matter. 

Still, it is a form of insider trading, at least for reporters gambling on the sports they are covering. 

Journalists who write favorable articles about companies they hold stock in would find themselves in serious trouble. Why should sports be any different? 

Yet this raises the issues of just how much publishers and editors can control staffers in general.  

Hearst has announced a new policy that would prohibit posting of controversial content in social media — or even liking it. And it has asked employees to report if they see it. 

This is easier, in theory, because it is public. It must have been promoted by the opinions coming out on the Israel-Hamas war.

For most reputable publications, that would be a firing offense. You can bet on it. 






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