ESPN Reporters Can’t Bet on the Sports They Cover

ESPN’s sports betting rules will prohibit its reporters from “placing, soliciting, or facilitating” wagers on their beats.

The guidelines, released last week and confirmed to Gaming Today by two sources, attempt to harden the wall between the network’s group of “insiders” and the PENN Entertainment ESPN BET sportsbook app scheduled to launch tomorrow.

ESPN’s Sports Betting Rules for Reporters:

  • “Reporters and Insiders” – as designated by ESPN – cannot place, solicit, or facilitate and bet “on the properties” they regularly cover. Other employees are prohibited from using information gleaned from a reporter or insider to bet.
  • Production personnel or journalists working on an event as a one-off cannot bet on it.
  • Employees are forbidden to “use, disclose, or provide access” to non-public information for “betting-related purposes” gathered as part of their work. This includes encouraging others to bet on the news or disclosing it to sportsbook operators. This includes injury status and other information about officials, players, coaches, or management.

These guidelines mirror the gambling rules for pro athletes set up by the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB.

After the PENN deal was announced in August, Disney CEO Bob Iger said it intended to insulate ESPN’s journalists and shield the new sports betting venture from the kind of public scrutiny such collaboration was sure to engender.

Even with these rules, the general public will decide if the likes of Adrian Wojnarowski or Adam Schefter – whose currency is their inside information – are using their positions for ancillary benefit. And not necessarily theirs, personally. Key in the new rules is a line forbidding employees from sharing confidential information with “any” sportsbook operators. That would include ESPN Bet, perhaps assuaging some doubt that reporters are channeling information to PENN oddsmakers.

The ESPN memo emphasized that “no story should be reported, delayed, influenced or withheld with the intention of impacting betting lines. All employees must observe the strict boundaries that the Company maintains between our journalistic enterprise and the operations of a sportsbook and should not imply any control or influence over the operations of a sportsbook.”

About the Author
Brant James

Brant James

Senior Writer
Brant James is a senior writer who covers the sports betting industry and legislation at Gaming Today. An alum of the Tampa Bay Times, ESPN.com, espnW, SI.com, and USA Today, he's covered motorsports and the NHL as beats. He also once made a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and rode to the top of Mt. Washington with Travis Pastrana. John Tortorella has yelled at him numerous times.

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