During the NBA Draft, sports bettors cried foul when hoops insider Shams Charania seemingly moved betting lines around a top draft pick.
Charania’s credentials as a reporter weren’t in question. It was his part-time job with FanDuel Sportsbook that led to conflict-of-interest charges.
The next player to step into the minefield will be ESPN. The sports giant — home of league insiders like Adam Schefter (NFL), Adrian Wojnarowski (NBA), and Jeff Passan (MLB) — will now face the responsibility that comes with the power to impact odds and betting markets with a single tweet.
ESPN’s $2 billion, 10-year deal with PENN Entertainment to rebrand Barstool Sportsbooks “ESPN Bet” is a giant gamble — and one that raises questions.
Will we see Wojnarowski touting picks on ESPN’s “Daily Wager?” What roles, if any, will Woj, Schefter, Passan, and others play with ESPN Bet?
The word out of ESPN is that it will implement strict lines of demarcation between journalism and sports betting. The network’s insiders will be kept far away from gambling-focused programs like “Daily Wager,” sources told Front Office Sports.
On Tuesday, ESPN vowed to continue its “high standard of journalistic integrity when covering the sports betting space.” It also promised to develop a committee on “responsible gaming.”
But things get murky quickly when it comes to sports betting. Ever since the NFL backtracked on its long-standing opposition to sports betting, it has struggled with an outbreak of gambling violations by players. And more than a year ago, it was Wojnarowski who apparently changed the odds on Draft night.
As the saying goes, the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing. ESPN is about to roll the dice.