SCOTUS gambling decision a boon for sports media companies

The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday to strike down a federal ban on sports betting could bring big benefits to media companies. “The decision seems certain to result in profound changes to the nation’s relationship with sports wagering,” write The New York Times’s Adam Liptak and Kevin Draper, noting that an estimated $150 billion are currently wagered illegally each year.

Depending on new state-by-state laws, the decision has the potential to bring a vast underground economy into the light, and sports media companies are excited about the chance to capitalize on the new market. Recode’s Peter Kafka writes that there will be opportunities for “everyone from VC-backed startups to giant TV programmers to find new revenue streams.” Kafka notes that one of the beneficiaries could be Meredith Corporation, which is looking to sell Sports Illustrated, a property that has been telling prospective buyers it can bundle information targeted at gamblers into a subscription package.

The NBA has been especially bullish on the idea of legalized gambling, and has proposed a system in which it would take a small cut of each bet in order to boost revenue to teams. The LA Times’s Tania Ganguli notes that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been a proponent of legalization for several years, and that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban predicted the decision would double the value of major sports franchises.

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Sports media has a long and complicated history with gambling. Traditionally, outlets were reluctant to air, or placed outright bans on, commentary directly referencing the lines. But The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis says that has changed in recent years. “After the new century dawned, writers and broadcasters started talking gambling more freely,” Curtis writes, crediting that openness with pushing gambling into the public discussion.

The impact of the Court’s decision won’t be felt all at once. Sports gambling had previously been fully legal in Nevada alone, and New Jersey is the only state immediately affected. But the door is now open for others to implement a framework that would make betting legal in their states. Media companies—from local sports pages to targeted, subscription-based startups—will soon have the opportunity to cash in.

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Below, more on the business opportunity provided by the Court.

  • A business boost: “Congratulations, sports media,” writes NiemanLab’s Joshua Benton. “You just got a big business-model subsidy from the Supreme Court.” Benton argues that the premium on insider information will lead to consumers being more willing to shell out for content that gambling-focused outlets provide.
  • Where can you bet?: For ESPN, Ryan Rodenberg has an overview of which states are closest to legalizing sports betting. First up: New Jersey, then Delaware. Meanwhile, the AP has a map showing which states are likely to legalize in the near and intermediate future.
  • Fierce competition: CNN’s Dylan Byers has some good insights from industry sources. “Legal sports betting will lead to a rush on new apps and services from tech startups and legacy media companies who will join traditional bookmakers and online betting sites,” he reports.


Other notable stories

  • Politico’s Jason Schwartz examines split-screen images that made their way around the networks yesterday, as the smiling faces of Trump officials celebrating the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on one side “contrasted jarringly with the scenes of violence and chaos playing on the other.” At least 58 protesters were killed, the deadliest day in Gaza since the 2014 war with Israel.
  • Great reporting on the lives and work of the 10 journalists killed in Afghanistan on April 30 from CJR’s Jon Allsop and the Committee to Protect Journalists’s Aliya Iftikhar and Mehdi Rahmati. It was the deadliest day in the country for journalists since the fall of the Taliban, and the authors do a great job capturing details of the lives lost.
  • Reuters’s Jessica Toonkel and Tom Hals have an overview of latest twist in the battle between CBS and Shari Redstone. CBS sued Redstone yesterday, exercising the “‘nuclear option’ to free itself from its controlling shareholder, setting the stage for a high-stakes legal battle over the future of one of the biggest U.S. entertainment companies.”
  • The Salt Lake Tribune is cutting more than a third of its newsroom and scaling back its print offerings in what the paper’s Tony Semerad describes as “a radical restructuring of Utah’s largest newspaper.”
  • According to Page Six’s Emily Smith, Bill O’Reilly is in talks with Newsmax TV about coming back to cable. Newsmax is reportedly hoping to launch a slate of evening opinion shows—possibly featuring former Fox personalities O’Reilly, Eric Bolling, and Greta van Susteren—that would compete for conservative audiences with the cable news leader.
  • It’s a good time to be a newspaper reporter with a cable news contract, reports BuzzFeed’s Steven Perlberg. “Blessed with a TV news presidency, CNN and MSNBC are entrenched in an arms race to land ‘contributors’ exclusive to their airwaves,” Perlberg writes. “Starting contributor rates for political reporters fall between about $30,000 and $50,000 a year. Top reporters can earn between $50,000 and $90,000 for their TV side-hustles, and some seasoned pros—boosted by loyalty and multi-year arrangements—make as much as $250,000.”
  • CJR’s Mathew Ingram reports that the reader-funded Dutch news outlet De Correspondent is preparing to launch The Correspondent in the US with $950,000 in backing from the Omidyar Network.
  • The New York Times’s Elizabeth Dias profiles David Brody, the chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. “Mr. Brody and his network enjoy a closeness to the White House that is foreign to most reporters,” Dias writes. “In return, Mr. Trump gets a direct line to his most supportive voters, the conservative evangelicals who make up CBN’s core audience.”
  • Michael Avenatti, the telegenic lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, threatened to sue The Daily Caller in a move that struck many observers as “Trumpian.

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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.