David Payne comes out of the gambling closet

Oct 4, 2011 |
David Payne comes out of the gambling closet
My name is David Payne Purdum, and I am a sports betting writer.
My name is David Payne Purdum, and I am a sports betting writer.
Boys, I’m out.

Freed from the closet that sheltered me from society’s ill-informed discrimination, I am here to expose myself to the world or at least to the predominantly male Covers.com audience.

Actually, with a demographic of men, 25-50, with disposable income, Covers is the perfect spot to make this kind of life-altering announcement.

My name is David Payne Purdum, and I am a sports betting writer.

For three years, I have been writing for Covers under the pen name David Payne. I was working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when I started. The AJC was strict about outside freelance work, but with a baby on the way, I needed supplemental income. So I started at Covers with a pen name that would protect me professionally.

Yet, even after I left the AJC over a year ago, I was hesitant to use my real name as my Covers byline. I was scared of being labeled a gambling writer and, more specifically, a sports betting writer.

For whatever reason, society looks down at sports bettors, in my opinion. We’re degenerates while poker players are glamorous. People who feed slot machines are enjoying retired life, while sports bettors are wasting theirs. We’re the bottom of the gambling barrel.

Chad Millman, ESPN The Magazine editor-in-chief and gambling insider, disagrees and believes the negative stereotype of the sports bettor disappeared a generation ago.

“I don’t think people see [sports betting] as dangerous or illicit as it once was,” Millman said in a Tuesday phone interview from his Bristol, Conn., office. “Almost every state has adopted some form of gambling, not necessarily sports betting, but some kind of casino betting. People growing up today are familiar with the idea of gambling.

“The internet is the second phase of that and has made sports betting specifically so much more accessible,” Millman added. “The mechanism you need in order to be a sports bettor is easier to access now, so people are more comfortable with the idea. They don’t think of it as someone doing something with a bookie on some corner that could get you in trouble. They’re just going online.

“People could make the argument that it makes it more dangerous and more addictive, but the flip side of that is that it’s become much more socially accepted.”

While society’s stance on sports betting may be softening, the NFL’s has not. And, frankly, it’s ridiculous.

The NFL encourages fans to play fantasy football, but wants nothing to do with those who wager on the outcome of games instead of the statistical performances. Last time I checked, people were playing fantasy football for money, and I’d venture to bet they’re doing it on NFL.com.

“I’ve written about this often that I think fantasy [football] is just another form of gambling,” said Millman, whose iconic book on sports betting, “The Odds,” was published 10 years ago. “The eternal debate is whether or not fantasy is a game of skill in the way that betting on sports is perceived as game of chance. People will give you different answers to that question, but my feeling has always been that fantasy is a form of betting. But the NFL has a different take.”

Society also has a different take on Wall Street. Investing in stocks is the smart thing to do, we’re told. But don’t worry about the billion-dollar Ponzi schemes or unethical bank practices. Those are no big deal. But whatever you do, do not invest in the Detroit Lions, who exceeded market expectations 78.5 percent over the last 13 months.

The hypocrisy is infuriating, especially since I’m not a degenerate. I, like most of you, am a sports fan with a passion for the strategy behind sports betting. I’m interested in the people who make their living in the industry. And I’m responsible with my expendable income. After all, my priority is taking care of my soon-to-be 3-year-old daughter, who, little does she know, is responsible for getting her daddy his dream job as a sports betting writer.

The stereotype of a sports bettor

I ran the lead of this column by a friend, who doesn’t bet or read Covers.com. I wanted to know if my playful introduction would be offensive to homosexuals. His response: “It's not offensive to gay people, but you may be over-estimating your audience's gay tolerance. I hope you don't mind men aged 25-50 who read gambling websites thinking you are a (gay slur).”

He used the slur as an example of how he thought readers would react. It’s not how he normally talks.

But, like I said, he doesn’t read Covers.com and really has no clue about the type of comments that come from our audience. It is the perfect example of the negative stereotype that I believe still surrounds sports betting. We’re uneducated, unsophisticated and lack social class.

Horse manure.

For every jackass in this industry, there’s a sharp, well-educated professional like Caesars senior race and sports analyst Todd Furhman or Vegas pro Teddy Sevransky. That’s the same jackass-to-sharp ratio that you find in almost every industry.

“I talk to so many people who want to get into the business, and some of these guys graduated from Duke,” said Millman. “I got a call from a guy who’s graduating from Duke and wants to go into sports betting instead of finance. I see more and more of that than I do guys who grew up running numbers and want to go make a run of it in Vegas.”

Like it or not, the perception of the sports betting industry is something we need to change, if we ever hope to be allowed to legally invest our money for recreation or profit in sports.

Legalized sports betting throughout the United States doesn’t appear to be coming anytime soon. And, although the offshore industry appears to be stabilizing after summer attacks, consumer confidence obviously isn’t as strong. But guess what? People are still betting, every single day.

Meanwhile, an estimated one of 11 Americans is unemployed.
In the end, changing society’s inaccurate perception of sports betting is a mighty challenge; one that I’m not sure is completely possible to alter. But bet on this – David Payne Purdum will keep trying.

Let’s gamble.

Purdum’s Payneful Picks

Last week: 2-1. Season: 10-5.

Colorado-Stanford: Over 58

Stanford leads the nation in red-zone efficiency and has scored 17 touchdowns in its 22 trips inside the red zone. Colorado ranks 101st in red-zone defense and has allowed 15 touchdowns on 22 red-zone drives by opponents.

Ohio-Buffalo: Under 53

Ohio’s defense is the probably the best unit no one knows about, and Buffalo’s offense is puny, especially in the red zone. The Bulls have scored only five touchdowns in 11 trips to the red zone.

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