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Major sports being stung by gambling

Posted on April 4, 2024 by Taber Times

By Bruce Penton

Widespread legalized gambling on sports events in North America is only a few years old, yet its dark side has bubbled to the surface. How bad will it get before authorities step in?

Gambling and sports have gone together like peanut butter and jam for centuries. Illegal bets were probably made during the Roman chariot races in ancient times. In the modern era, the 1919 Chicago White Sox (later named the ‘Black Sox’ for obvious reasons), got involved with gamblers and threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, pocketing hundreds of dollars in payoffs for their unscrupulous tactics. More recently, Pete Rose was banned for life from baseball for alleged gambling on games in which he participated.

Now, gambling opportunities are ubiquitous through sites like Draft Kings and FanDuel. Evidently, but sad to say, 100 per cent of today’s athletes are not morally strong enough to remain uninvolved.

The National Football League was stung with Calvin Ridley of Atlanta Falcons, suspended for a full year for gambling. Ottawa Senators’ Shane Pinto got the National Hockey League involved, with a half-season suspension issued as a result of ‘activities related to sports wagering.’ Baseball’s Shohei Ohtani fired his interpreter when it was revealed Ohtani paid a bookmaker $4.5 million for gambling debts incurred by the interpreter. Now, a backup for the Toronto Raptors, Jontay Porter, is facing allegations of cavorting with gamblers to bring in a few bucks to pad his $450,000 annual salary.

The Porter story alleges suspicious ‘prop’ bets. One of them was that Porter would make fewer than 0.5 three-pointers in a particular game (in other words, zero three-pointers). Another was that he would grab fewer than 1.5 rebounds in a game played six weeks later. In both cases, Porter left the game early with minor injuries, and his minimal playing time guaranteed that he would finish ‘under’ the prop lines. In both cases, Draft Kings reported, the bets on Porter props had the highest payouts of the day among NBA games, strengthening suspicion and guaranteeing an investigation.

Golf hasn’t yet been hit by a gambling scandal, but a recent Fried Egg Golf story suggested the sport was ripe for it. Player X shoots 80 on Thursday, eliminating any hope of making the cut. But on Friday, a matchup prop has him going head-to-head against Player Y. The gambler says to Player X, ‘You’re going to miss the cut and make nothing. I’ll give you $10,000 to lose to Player Y.” The gambler than places huge bets on Player Y.

The gambling horse is out of the barn and there’s not much professional sports administrators can do except continue to educate their players, step up enforcement and make penalties so penal that players, already among the highest-paid members of society, wouldn’t want to risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

• Phil Mushnick of the New York Post: “Chris Simon, who traded bare-fisted punches to the head for seven NHL teams … last week committed suicide at age 52. His family believes he was afflicted by on-the-job brain damage, CTE. Given his past response to CTE revelations, Gary Bettman, I suspect, thinks Simon died of media hysterics.”

• Fried Egg Golf, after Peter Malnati, who plays a yellow ball, won the Valspar Championship: “Of course the guy playing yellow balls won the event sponsored by a paint company.”

• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, replying to a tweet from novelist Rick Reilly, who wrote a book called ‘Commander in Cheat’ and who mocked Donald Trump for bragging about winning the club championship and senior club championship at his golf club: “C’mon @reillyRick, give the man his due! He’s so modest he didn’t brag about how he also won the 16-and-under, and the ladies’ flight. By a landslide!”

• Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “MLB commissioner on baseball’s Ohtani investigation — ‘I hope [it’s] short, but I just don’t know.’ Translation, as soon as we can figure out a way to accept enough of Shohei’s most recent story to keep him playing.”

• Flashback quip from former Notre Dame coach Dan Devine: “There are two kinds of people in the world, Notre Dame lovers and Notre Dame haters. And, quite frankly, they’re both a pain in the (behind).”

• Retired tennis star John McEnroe, who recently turned 65: “The older you get, the better you used to be.”

• Comedy guy Torben Rolfsen of Vancouver, on a March Madness upset: “Yale over Auburn. I never thought I’d see that in anything other than College Jeopardy.”

• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Team Canada beat Team Switzerland to win the women’s curling championship. Just for the day, they should change the national anthem to ‘O Canada, our Homan native land.’

• Headline at fark.com, after Russell Wilson sold his Denver home for $3.5 million less than what he paid for it: “Russell Wilson isn’t done losing in Denver.”

• fark.com again: The April 8 “total eclipse is going to hit in the middle of a day game at Yankee Stadium. Place your bets as to who will drop the ball: Yankees or the Miami Marlins.”

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