Sports Reporters Gamble? Not Surprising

Editor and Publisher brings us an interesting report today, one that's surprising, but probably not for the reason you think. The thrust of it is this: Forty percent of sports writers in a survey said they gamble on sports. Five percent said they actually gamble on sports they cover. ↵

↵The survey hit up 285 sports reporters by phone. The report also says "those who gamble on sports were more likely than their non-gambling colleagues to admit that gambling hurts objectivity in coverage." ↵

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↵I'm not exactly a grizzled veteran of the business, but having so many friends from school in the business and making mutual friends in the business across the country, I'm actually shocked that 40 percent isn't higher. Now, this is not the biggest sample size in the world, and I've got zero clue what kind of folks were surveyed. For example, if they hit the entire New York Times staff, you'd probably get fewer folks admitting to gambling because it's against the ethics code there. (Not saying people at the Times are actually gambling on sports, I just mean through fear of losing a job, or not actually gambling, you'd get a lower number.) ↵

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↵The data for this study isn't totally available at this point. The whole thing is set to appear in the September 2009 issue of the International Journal of Sports Communication. Because we don't have that info, it's tough for me to draw really big, broad conclusions. What's considered gambling? Strictly playing point spreads and prop bets? What about office pools for the NCAA Tournament? What about survivor pools for the NFL? What about fantasy football leagues where money is in play? If those are considered gambling, then I'm calling shenanigans on that 40 percent and saying it's significantly higher. I'd also say that 5 percent number would be way up, too. ↵

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↵I play fantasy football and I'm part of NCAA tourney pools, but I don't think it colors my coverage of anything. I'm fully in agreement with the thought that betting on individual games of any sport/team you cover will color your coverage. If the manager keeps botching decisions and it costs you some coin, the level of vitriol aimed at that guy is bound to go up. Maybe not with everyone, but certainly enough that it's a bad thing. ↵

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↵I've heard of similar codes of ethics in other fields of writing. I know some/all of the folks over at popular tech blog Engadget are not allowed to invest in tech companies because what they write can essentially shift the market given their large audience and power of persuasion. Would knowing a writer regularly has money on games for the sport/team he covers bother you and change how you viewed his writing? What's the line when it comes to single-game betting and fantasy sports? ↵

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↵(H/T to Romenesko and Richard Deitsch) ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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