10 Shocking Sports Gambling Scandals

Broken Window With Different Sports Reflected in Each Shard

In 2018, the Supreme Court effectively ended a long-standing federal ban regarding sports betting. This presumably opened the doors for most, if not all, 50 states to allow legal sports betting — although it is taking longer than many anxious gamblers would prefer.

The point is, it’s coming. Many states have already opened legal sports betting to the masses. What we are going to see more of is scrutiny.

Everything will be watched more closely than ever before.

How Will This Affect the Future of Sports Betting

The players will suddenly endure being forced even further under the microscope.

So will the officials.

In fact, everything down to the spreads will have a careful eye on them. You can rest assured that from the individual leagues to law enforcement, the phrase du jour will be “above reproach.”

The leagues can’t afford to have their brand tarnished. Law enforcement will likely make a clear and extreme example of anybody involved in cheating. The sportsbooks do not want to lose their cash cow over any shenanigans.

That’s going to be a tall order.

From the inception of sports leagues, professional gamblers have bet on games. More importantly, gamblers have jockeyed for new and creative ways to push the odds in their favor.

Today, I’m going to share 10 shocking sports gambling scandals. You may be familiar with some, but I’ve added some particular nuggets you probably have never heard of.

1 – Broadway Joe: Night Club Owner?

This first one is just obscure enough to probably have flown under your radar until today. Following his win in Super Bowl III, Joe Namath was the hottest commodity in the sports world.

He also had a reputation as a bit of a player off the field.

Namath, not being one to skip seizing on a golden opportunity, decided to open his own nightclub. The problem here was in part due to the image created by the NFL’s biggest star owning a swinging night joint. However, it was the clientele that likely led the NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to sit Namath down.

NFL Player Joe Namath

This group of questionable characters included several bookies and made men. Joe surprised not only Rozelle but the world. Instead of merely selling his share in the club at the commissioner’s request. Broadway Joe abruptly retired from the NFL.

This was a short-lived decision, and roughly 1 month later, Namath was back at the helm as quarterback for the Jets.

2 – Technical Foul on Donaghy

It’s hard to believe this was 13 years ago already. I remember this being major news for a few weeks and then subtly falling into the shadows.

NBA referee Tim Donaghy not only bet on NBA games, but there was evidence he had bet on games he had officiated. Furthermore, the FBI’s investigation uncovered that after falling deeply into debt, Donaghy had given insider information to other gamblers.

This scandal was a here today gone tomorrow story.

Yet, it left a blemish squarely on the face of the NBA.

3 – Northwestern Hoops

The Northwestern basketball team fell under the microscope in 1995. 2 players even received prison time for their role in putting the fix on games.

The previous season the team had gone just 5-13 in conference play. So, why anybody felt the need to pay players to lose remains a mystery.

4 – Alex Karras and Paul Hornung

Paul Hornung is a celebrated league MVP and held the NFL scoring record for over 45 years. Alex Karras attained status as an All-Pro defensive tackle.

The famous duo of Karras and Hornung regularly wagered hundreds of dollars betting on NFL games. You may think of $500 and scoff. You should remember this is in the 1960s, and by today’s dollar, that’s around $4k on a single game.

Commissioner Rozelle levied an indefinite suspension on the pair. He was, however, emphatic that neither player bet for or against their own team.

Both players were allowed to return to action after one season watching the games on TV. Hornung picked up where he left off and rode his talent to the Hall of Fame. Karras had an exceptional NFL career spanning 12 years in the league and ultimately became an actor. He even starred in Webster, one of my childhood favorites.

5 – Boston College Goodfellas

If you love the movie Goodfellas as much as I do, you’re going to enjoy this.

Jimmy Burke (portrayed by Robert DeNiro) was sent to prison solely from an off-handed almost “in passing” comment from Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta in the hit film).

Hill was being interviewed by law enforcement following a drug arrest. During his interview, he inexplicably mentioned a point-shaving scheme involving Boston College. This immediately caught the attention of the Feds.

Hill had no qualms taking immunity and swiftly turned on his friends. As they say, no honor among thieves.

Apparently, the crime syndicate would bet on BC to win games but lose versus the spread. This was quite profitable for the crime family before it all came crashing down.

6 – John Williams AKA “Hot Rod”

John Williams had an excellent NBA career spanning 13 seasons. So, you may not remember how he nearly went to federal prison over point shaving. The scandal rocked the Tulane program in 1985.

NBA Players John Williams and Larry Bird

The NCAA ended up halting the Tulane basketball team for 4 seasons after 5 players were implicated in the scheme. Hot Rod endured 2 trials in federal court. The first was declared a mistrial. On the second attempt at prosecution Williams was acquitted on all 5 counts.

7 – A Top Draft Pick to Inmate

Art Schlichter was the fourth overall selection in the draft when he was selected in 1982.

By the end of his first NFL season, he had managed to rack up almost $1 million in gambling debts.

Art served a suspension and rejoined the league in 1984. However, his NFL career was over by 1985.

Unfortunately, Art spent the ensuing 35 years having various run-ins with the law. The former highly touted NFL quarterback is presently serving a 10-year prison sentence for fraud.

8 – A Pal to the Great One

Former All-Star Rick Tocchet has hoisted the Stanley Cup. This is the pinnacle of hockey for everyone who’s ever laced up their skates and taken the ice.

Skating the ice with Lord Stanley’s Cup is a stark contrast to the trouble Rick found himself in. Tocchet pleaded guilty for his part in a $2M gambling enterprise. This ring served as a sportsbook of sorts for the rich and famous.

The plot thickened when investigators came across a familiar name, Janet.

It probably wasn’t Janet that caught their attention, thouhh.

I’m sure shortly they got to the Gretzky that directly followed, and their jaws dropped.

9 – The Black Sox

Following the 9-1 drumming the Chicago White Sox endured in Game 1 of the World Series in 1919, many were left scratching their heads. Of course, no one could have imagined that 8 players had thrown the game.

The 8 players had agreed to throw the entire Series for gamblers. “Shoeless Joe” Jackson received a lifetime ban as did 7 of his participating teammates.

The Black Sox scandal is possibly the most shocking sports gambling scandal of all time. It was also not the clandestine mission many had hoped it would be.

Before the series even began, the word was out that the fix was in. However, baseball’s governing body chose to ignore all the commotion. It was largely swept under the rug until a similar instance in 1920.

None of the players involved were prosecuted for their crimes. Yet, as I mentioned, all received a lifetime ban. The raucous scandal has been portrayed over and again in Hollywood. Perhaps the most famous iteration being the 1988 film Eight Men Out, which featured an All-Star cast of its own.

10 – Pete Rose

“Charlie Hustle” is considered by some to be the best all-around player of all time. Owning the crown as the all-time hits leader certainly helps his case.

Speaking of the all-time hits leader, he was banned from baseball in 1989 for placing wagers on games. Rose vehemently denied all such claims for over 15 years. Eventually, Rose caved and confessed to betting on games while a manager.

MLB Player Pete Rose

Still, Rose clung to the assertion that he never bet on the game as a player. Until undeniable proof confirmed that Rose was placing about a bet a day while playing.

Pete Rose not only bet on baseball but bet on his own team. He proclaims he never bet against his Reds, and that seems to be 100% true. Regardless, the hit king continues to lobby to get back into baseball. He simply wants to be eligible for Hall of Fame induction.

I hope Pete gets his shot. Peter Edward Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Conclusion

These sports gambling scandals rocked 2 worlds simultaneously, if only for a brief moment.

On the one hand, you had the sports world — one where honor and the love of the game are coveted above all else — a realm where the sanctity of pure competition shines through now slightly blemished.

On the other, you have the sports betting world — a world where a mired reputation and unsavory characters are far more common — a fight that those in the gambling community know all too well:

The battle to remain completely legitimate.

These scandals aren’t going to go away for a simple reason.

Some people are greedy.

There is a lot of money to be won or lost in sports gambling. Putting in a fix or having an inside tip is too much for some to ignore.