Update (January 16, 2019): In June 2017, RJ Bell and Pregame filed a defamation litigation over this article. The parties agreed to settle the situation and, within the arrangement, Deadspin is providing a link to Bell's response to the allegations from the content: RJ Bell's Response to The Article. Deadspin stands by its coverage.
Full wagering is illegal in 49 states, but sports betting is big business, with billions each year--and everyone knows it. Lines and motions are discussed publicly on TV, and covers are all cited right next to match stories. Media outlets nationally turn to a handful of people for insight and predictions into point spreads and odds. And the guy they seem to over any other is RJ Bell, a self-proclaimed modern-day Jimmy the Greek.
Numerous names, some others and generous absolutely untrue --gambling expert, professional handicapper, Vegas oddsmaker--are used to identify Bell when he is interviewed, but his role as head of Pregame.com is always included and rarely clarified. Pregame, which Bell began in 2005, sells picks. Bell does not market his own decisions any more--they did very well--but instead manages a revolving cast of two dozen men who do. Bell says they're winning expert bettors, and by paying to get their advice, the implication is you will win, also. After all, they do this for a living.
In the industry or even in the media, Bell's army of handicappers are known, generally derisively, as touts, and Bell is chief tout of the most visible and quite possibly the most lucrative pick-selling operation.
But unlike his forerunners--noteworthy loudmouths from the'80s and'90s like Jack Price and Stu Feiner who came around like pro wrestlers--Bell isn't braying on TV infomercials, promising to bury your bookmaker. He does not have to. Mainstream media today attracts the heads of these services on atmosphere and moves them off as analysts, devoting individuals like Bell streams of new customers and free advertising a salesman could scarcely imagine.
Sportscasters and scribes alike present Bell as Las Vegas' oracle. You can hear him on Stephen A. Smith's Sirius show, KROQ in Los Angeles, ESPN radio in Las Vegas, Yahoo's nationwide websites, NBC Sports Radio, and Colin Cowherd's nationally syndicated Fox Sports 1 series; see him at primetime on SportsCenter, CBS, ABC, CNBC, CNN, or even at South by Southwest; and locate him quoted regularly in the New York Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and any local rag or blog that calls him. A number of years back, he wrote a regular betting column for Grantland. His followers over 117,000 to variety. After him, he says, is similar to having"a chair in the sportsbook."