As more and more states legalize sports gambling, sports betting companies are positively desperate to attach themselves to media companies so they can reach more people, turn more fans in gamblers, and therefore make more money. Two of the biggest online sportsbooks, FanDuel and DraftKings, have been throwing money at media companies that are willing to turn themselves into billboards for gambling. The Ringer, of course, obliged; earlier this month, FanDuel became the company’s “exclusive gambling partner,” in a deal worth an undisclosed amount of money. FanDuel was already in an “exclusive marketing relationship” with Clay Travis’s site, which was just sold to Fox in the network’s sweaty efforts to cash in on the sports gambling craze. Not to be outdone, DraftKings paid Dan Le Batard’s new media company $50 million over three years for the rights to license a podcast.
If all this deal-making strikes you as vaguely slimy or at least incredibly tacky and tedious—talking about sports in terms of whether you can make money on C.J. McCollum getting over or under 5.5 assists is simply boring as shit—wait until you get a load of the latest media company to hop into bed with a sportsbook. FanDuel reached a deal for an undisclosed amount with the Associated Press to be its exclusive sports betting partner. Per Variety:
Under the terms of the agreement, FanDuel-provided odds will appear in AP’s daily sports odds features, game previews and other sports stories. In addition, the companies also will integrate FanDuel widgets across the sports pages of APNews.com and distribute “select FanDuel content” across the AP wire.
You read that right: The Associated Press, the supposed paragon of traditional journalistic virtue—which this past week let a cynical right-wing mob use Gamergate tactics to scare it into firing a talented young reporter over nothing, and then claimed it was simply acting in accordance with its infallible ethical code—is getting paid to do sponsored content for a company it ostensibly covers. The deal is bad enough—the Associated Press has included sports betting odds in its reports for decades without an exclusive deal with a sportsbook—but the way the AP tried to spin it is even worse.
While FanDuel was upfront about the deal being good advertising for them—Chief Marketing Officer Mike Raffensperger said, “I think the thing where we move the needle is partnerships with media companies”—the AP tried to claim it was simply a matter of good journalism. While insisting it would retain full editorial control, which is meaningless anyhow in the context of sponcon, the AP implied the deal was made from a desire for good reporting. “We want more context in our reporting,” said Barry Bedlan, the AP’s global director of text and new markets products. “That’s ultimately what this is about.”
If that’s ultimately what this is about, then why is the AP getting paid to do it?