August 9, 2022

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For an NBA draft that lacked a clear top pick, some clarity came Thursday morning, about 12 hours before the top pick was made, with a tweet from ESPN’s top NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski .

“As team councils finalize today, the 1-2-3 in the NBA Draft is getting firmer, according to sources: Jabari Smith at Orlando, Chet Holmgren at Oklahoma City and Paolo Banchero at Houston”, Wojnarowski wrote.

Because of Wojnarowski’s status – he has 5 million Twitter followers and has turned scoopy nuggets into his calling card – the gaming world has paid attention. Smith went from +200 to -800, becoming the favorite to become No. 1. Banchero’s ratings, meanwhile, fell precipitously. It went from the expected first choice, to -800, to +600. These are huge swings: a line of -800 means you need to bet $800 to win $100; +600 means you win $600 for betting $100.

But by the time of the draft, Wojnarowski’s reporting had changed.

Minutes before the first pick, Wojnarowski reported on TV that Banchero was once again the favorite. And he tweeted: “As the Orlando Magic ticks closer to the clock, Duke’s Paolo Banchero is now emerging as one of the favorites to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, according to sources at ESPN.”

Banchero came back to -800 and was selected first. What exactly happened has remained a mystery. A theory suggested there was a key phone call between Banchero and the Magic; another was that Orlando was hoping to trade a few picks while still getting their chosen player. But what was clear was that people were listening to Wojnarowski. At Bet Rivers, more money was bet on Smith than Banchero to be the first draft pick, even though Banchero was favored ahead of Wojnarowski’s morning tweet and ultimately picked first.

The way the lines moved enhanced Wojnarowski’s ability to shape them dramatically and influence whether punters who cling to his scoops win or lose money. In this case, they lost.

And unlike other potential line-moving events that “insider” reporters are routinely told about before the betting public – injuries are the most common – people within an organization know and control who is selected in the repechage. These are the same people who could provide information to journalists, even if bettors are betting on the stock. Someone, in theory, could tip a reporter like Wojnarowski badly and then capitalize on the odds. Or a journalist himself could capitalize.

Sports betting is now legal and available in 30 states, and ESPN employees have publicized their gambling winnings. Many sports media companies, including ESPN, are now in business with sports betting. But as newsgathering organizations, they have also attempted to create policies for their journalists. An ESPN spokesperson said the company updated its wagering policy for employees in October.

“Employees may not use, disclose or provide access to confidential information they learn in the course of their employment for betting-related activities,” the policy states. The guidelines define confidential information as any non-public information that a reporter may be exposed to in the course of their work and “may relate to our business, programming, reporting, commercial activities, the league or other partners.”

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Other outlets have adopted stricter guidelines. The Athletic, which was acquired by The New York Times this year, does not allow journalists to bet on the sport they cover at all.

“Staff members are prohibited from betting on the leagues (e.g. NFL, NBA, EPL) they cover and from using information obtained through work or relationships developed through their work with The Athletic to bet on other sports,” we read. The policy, which employees said was put in place this month, specifically noted that journalists who work on Athletic’s betting vertical are allowed to bet. The Times has a similar policy, prohibiting sportswriters from betting on sports they cover while allowing “recreational betting on sports they do not cover, in accordance with the laws of their place of residence”.

The Washington Post doesn’t have a written policy, sportswriter Matt Vita said, but “we have a long-standing agreement with our reporters that they can’t bet on the sporting events or teams they cover.” .

Sportsbooks, on the other hand, understand the difference between bets on draft picks and the outcome of a game, and they impose much lower limits on draft pick bets so they have less liability. . “It’s not a traditional game,” said Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk management at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. “It’s something where people race for information. So you pay attention to every reporter, because bets are all based on information.

Sherman said Nevada has only legalized draft betting in the last few years and betting in the state is reduced 24 hours before the event, although other states allow it on the day same. He withdrew the first pick bet from the NBA draft early Thursday morning.

Sherman added that the situation with the NBA Draft was not entirely unprecedented. There have been wild swings in draft betting in previous years based on information from reporters. And when NBA star Kawhi Leonard missed a slew of games during the season not through injury but through regular rest, there was often a race by bettors to find out his status when defining night lines.