Shadyside grad’s gamble has paid off in Las Vegas
If you’ve ever listened to ‘The Herd’ hosted by Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio, you’re sure to have heard the voice and knowledge of R.J. Bell.
You might have even taken his advice about odds and what teams are worth betting during the weekend’s worth of football games.
But, what you might not have realized about gambling guru R.J. Bell or – as he’s more well known in the Ohio Valley – Randall Busack is that he’s a 1988 Shadyside High graduate.
Bell, who is now based in Las Vegas, owns and operates one of the nation’s premier betting websites, pregame.com.
Operating a sports gambling site at this time of the years means plenty of long days since today’s Super Bowl is the most gambled single event in the world each year.
“More than $10 billion worldwide will be bet on (today’s) game,” Bell said. “The oddsmaker’s are some of the sharpest sports experts in the country.”
Bell’s website lists the Patriots as a 3-point favorite for tonight’s game against the New York Giants.
The National Football League generates the most gambling interest throughout the calendar year, but odds can be found on any sport throughout the calendar year in the numerous Vegas sportsbooks.
“NFL is definitely the most popular,” Bell said. “The more popular a sport, the more gambling there is on it.”
A press release Bell sent to me, it indicates the Vegas favorite has won 33 of the 45 Super Bowls, which is a 73 percent clip. Of the best placed thus far – and more than 90 percent of Super Bowl bets are placed either on Saturday or Sunday – 60 percent of them have favored the Giants.
If you don’t think the oddsmakers that Bell referenced earlier are sharp, how about this fact? Las Vegas has won money on the Super Bowl in 19 of the last 21 years. However, one of those two times the players won, was during the last Giants-Patriots matchup.
“Over half of adult Americans are expected to have some money at risk on this game,” Bell said in the press release.
On top of just betting on one of the teams or the over/under, there are also numerous “prop” bets staged, including such things as who will score the first points, how long will it take Kelly Clarkson to sing the National Anthem, etc.
And those odds are set by the same oddsmakers.
“They’re so sharp that they’re able to arrive at quite accurate odds on nearly any scenario,” Bell said.
As soon as tonight’s game ends, the odds for the 2013 Super Bowl champion will be released. But, how do the oddsmakers know so quickly? Well, it’s their job, but it’s an inexact science.
“Factors such as how good a team was the prior year, plus expected changes all play a role,” Bell said. “No matter how good the oddsmakers are, future odds are not perfect. For example, after the Giants lost to the Packers in the regular season, the Giants were 100-1 to win the Super Bowl.”
The NFL is the most popular, but Bell, who’s done more than 40 interviews leading up to the Super Bowl, believes small college basketball could be the most profitable for the bettors.
“The less widespread knowledge there is about a sport, the better chance a bettor can know something the market doesn’t,” Bell admitted.
So how did a guy from Shadyside get to this point?
After graduating, Bell attended The Ohio State University and graduated summa cum laude in 1992 with a degree in finance.
Bell realized shortly after leaving OSU that there were plenty of finance majors who probably knew more about the field than he did.
With his background in betting, which started at the age of 14 when he hit on a 4-team parlay, which paid him $200, Bell decided to combine finance and gambling.
“A lot of people knew more about sports betting and finance than me,” Bell said. “But, I also figured that few knew more about both, which meant there was a business opportunity.”
Desiring to become highly active in sports gambling, there’s no better place to go than Vegas, so Bell matriculated to Nevada in 1998 and has been there ever since.
“Las Vegas was ideal for my goal to become a leading publisher of sports information,” Bell said.
Pregame.com was formed in 2005, and has really taken off in recent years for Bell. It now employs 10 full-time employees and 20 contracted content providers.
“The odds we provide on our website are provided to us by sportsbooks, who take bets on the games,” Bell said.
Bell’s business really took in 2007 when then NBA referee Tim Donaghy was caught up in a betting scandal.
“I did some original research that further exposes his corruption,” Bell said. “My reporting received wide coverage.”
Included was a live appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter. He’s become a frequent guest with Cowherd.
Bell was the only sports bettor listed on Forbes’ recent list of “Gambling Gurus” and was called “a true insider” by ESPN.
Along with his appearances on SportsCenter and Cowherd, Bell has also appeared on Outside the Lines, Mike & Mike, Jim Rome, First Take on the ESPN family of networks as well as CBS and ABC News, Jim Rome Show, Dan Patrick Show and has been quotes in nearly every major news publication in the country.
“I’ve made a strong effort to provide the media what they wanted from a source,” Bell said.
“Luckily, many have chosen to work with me ever since.”
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org