Gamble Game: A Sports Betting Reckoning

03/27/2024 Gamble Game: A Sports Betting Reckoning

By: Jeff Yoder

In the New-Age World of Sports Betting, Everybody’s Got a Guy


The last ten years have brought an unprecedented firestorm in the murky world of sports betting. It’s been fun (at times) to see it become legal and accessible all over the country. I’ll admit to placing a few mini-bets through an app on my phone just to keep things interesting, but sports gambling isn’t something we promote in The Sportsletter. It’s also not a topic we have time to cover in full, but it’s increasingly relevant at the moment. I wrote my masters thesis on the topic back in 2015, and that was 40-plus pages. Here’s a condensed version after the past few weeks have unveiled what we’ve always known: Everybody’s got a guy.


The Parlay That Keeps Hitting

Just this past week, Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter was fired for stealing $4.5 million to cover gambling debts. The NBA is now investigating irregularities surrounding Raptors’ two-way star Jontay Porter after a massive influx in prop bets bankrolled Vegas when Porter had some questionably-timed injuries. We also watched one of the best receivers in the NFL — Calvin Ridley — miss an entire season in 2023 for betting on NFL games. Ten more NFL players were suspended last season. Want to get real crazy? A former SEC quarterback recently claimed that “almost every game is rigged.” That was Mo Hasan, a former Vanderbilt quarterback. He said Alabama had ties to the mob and someone approached him with a $300k offer. And while there’s little-to-no validity in that last anecdote, nor are we suggesting Ohtani isn’t being truthful, the stories do raise eyebrows with more questions than answers.


NIL: No Integrity Left

Nick Saban recently spoke to Congress about the challenges of the new NIL era in collegiate sports. He claimed it was one of the factors that drove him to retire early. “Kids don’t care about how you’re going to develop them, only what you’re going to pay them,” Saban said. Those same kids can easily get their friends or family to place prop bets (on them) and share the earnings. And trust me, that’s happening.


What’s Coming Next?

Sports has shifted from a passion pursuit to a multi-billion dollar commercial entertainment product in the last 50 years. That’s due to a number of obvious factors — TV, brand deals, etc. — but we’re constantly seeing adjustments to rules and regulations that maintain the integrity of sport while allowing freedoms under the guise of player empowerment. The transfer portal and NIL are still in the infant stage, and pro athlete contracts are approaching the billions. Who cares, right? Michael Jordan was a known gambling addict and he’s still the GOAT. Most athletes do abide by the rules and play fair. But this new-age movement is quickly becoming dangerous. More athletes (than you think) are profiting in the shadows of the betting app era. There are now more than 40 legal sports betting apps available nationwide… from your pocket.


Sports’ integrity is getting a full-court press with pocket-bettors. The reckoning is coming, and these recent stories won’t be the last. Expect more gambles to end in shambles for some of your favorite athletes. And soon.


Read More

NBC Sports: In NIL World, Nick Saban Wondered ‘Maybe This Doesn’t Work Anymore’

The Athletic: Gambling Suspensions for Pro Athletes Are on the Rise. Is This the Tip of the Iceberg?

Yahoo! Sports: Shohei Ohtani Interpreter Scandal: 4 Remaining Questions After Dodgers Star Tells His Side of the Story


Image via Giphy