Update (January 16, 2019): In June 2017, RJ Bell and Pregame filed a defamation lawsuit over this report. The parties agreed to settle the situation and, as part of the agreement, Deadspin is providing a link to Bell’s answer to the allegations in the article: RJ Bell’s Response to The report. Deadspin stands by its reporting.

Complete wagering is illegal in 49 countries, but sports betting is big business, with countless wagered each year–and everyone knows it. Lines and moves are discussed publicly on TV, and covers are all cited right next to game stories. Media outlets nationwide turn to a handful of individuals for insight and predictions into point spreads and odds. And the man they seem to more than any other is RJ Bell, a self-proclaimed modern-day Jimmy the Greek.

Various names, some others and generous absolutely false–gambling specialist, professional handicapper, Vegas oddsmaker–are utilized to spot Bell when he’s interviewed, but his role as head of Pregame.com is always contained and seldom clarified. Pregame, that Bell started in 2005, sells sports-betting selections. Bell does not market his own selections any more–they did very well–but rather oversees a revolving cast of two dozen guys who do. Bell says they’re winning pro bettors, and by paying for their guidance, the consequence is you will win, too. After all, they do this for a living.

In the industry if not in the press, Bell’s military of handicappers are known, generally derisively, as touts, and Bell is chief tout of the very visible and quite possibly the most profitable pick-selling operation.

But unlike his forerunners–noteworthy loudmouths from the’80s and’90s like Jack Price and Stu Feiner who came across like professional wrestlers–Bell is not braying on TV infomercials, promising to bury your bookmaker. He does not have to. Mainstream media today attracts the heads of those services on atmosphere and passes them off as analysts, devoting individuals like Bell streams of new customers and free advertising a salesman could scarcely imagine.

Sportscasters and scribes alike introduce Bell since the oracle of Las Vegas. You can hear him on Stephen A. Smith’s Sirius show, KROQ in Los Angeles, ESPN radio in Las Vegas, Yahoo’s nationwide networks, 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 at the New York Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and any neighborhood rag or blog that calls him. A number of years back, he wrote a routine betting column for Grantland. His followers number over 117,000. After him, he says, is like having”a seat in the sportsbook.”

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