For as long as there have been professional sporting events, there has always been some sort of gambling to accompany a match. Dating all the way back to the 1919 World Series, the purity of sporting events has been marred by match fixing and point shaving. Some athletes who were found guilty participated simply to earn some extra money on the side. Others participated because of addiction to gambling itself, drugs, or alcohol.
The scandals and controversies aren’t limited to only players either. The NBA has seen referees such as Tim Donaghy lose their job over giving away inside information, the NHL had an assistant coach take bets from players (including Wayne Gretzky), and the MLB has had coaches be found guilty of stealing to pay off gambling debts.
With the globalization of sport, it is now easier than ever to place a bet on a professional sporting event. Throughout the world, the sports betting industry has grown to nearly $500 billion a year, with over 90% of all European bets placed on European futbol matches. And despite it being illegal in the United States outside of Las Vegas, millions of Americans are willing to shell out big bucks on the largest sporting events of the year. Here are some of the most impactful and largest sports betting scandals and controversies from around the world in the last century.
10. 2007 NBA Betting Scandal
Beginning in 2007, the New York Post had started to leak reports that an NBA referee was using inside knowledge to bet on NBA games. Clearly, if you are someone that close to the players, using information that the average Joe may not have in order to make money is illegal. The referee in question came out to be Tim Donaghy, who had been using player information such as injuries, relationships, and other vital information to his advantage since 2005. After surrendering to police, Donaghy explained that he had used coded language to tip off other gamblers and had received about $30,000 from bookies to do so. Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years of probation on felony conspiracy charges.
9. Michael Vick’s Dog Fighting Ring
Even though the Michael Vick dog fighting investigation happened away from the field, the amount of damage it did to his career and the severity of the situation is something that no football fan will ever be able to forget. In April 2007, Bad Newz Kennels, which was located on Vick’s property, was investigated for evidence of dog fighting and the results were astonishing. Over 70 pit bulls were found with signs of severe injury and aggression. After federal and state charges were filed against Vick and his accomplices, it was found that they were responsible for the torture and brutal executions of dogs and Vick was known to have bet over $40,000 on the outcome of some dog fights. Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison, three years of probation, and countless hours of community service and outreach to repair his image.
8. New York Mets Manager Pleads Guilty
As an employee of the New York Mets organization since 1976, some thought that Charlie Samuels had a dream job as the clubhouse manager. In 2010, the Mets fired Samuels amid charges of gambling with bookies, issuing loans to himself through the club, and stealing memorabilia. While never formally charged with illegal gambling, Samuels was charged with criminal tax fraud and stealing over $2 million worth of team memorabilia and collectibles. It’s not very often that someone in the clubhouse lets their transgressions get in the way of their dream job, but Samuels certainly wasn’t the first. He was sentenced to five years’ probation and banned for life from all New York Mets functions and buildings.
7. 2009 European Futbol Scandal
For as long as there has been gambling in sports, there has always been corruption; just with a quick look some of the most popular sports, there are few that haven’t fallen victim to match fixing. In one of the largest investigations into European futbol ever, it came to light that nearly 200 matches in several Euro countries, 12 qualifying matches for the EUFA Europa League, and three UEFA Champions League matches were fixed. Through tapping phone lines of organized crime members, it was found that several smaller futbol clubs were fixing matches in an effort to make money, beginning with Macedonian club FK Pobeda. As organized crime members were found, arrested, and charged, the pressure mounted on Patrick Neumann, captain of SC Verl and he confessed to his involvement and divulged more details of the scope of the operation.
6. Sumo Wrestling Match Fixing in Japan
When you think of sumo wrestling, you think of massive guys and tiny thong-like belts. As odd of a picture as it is, the sport is also known throughout the world for its religious traditions, strict code of conduct, and the integrity that it displays. In 2011 it was discovered that up to 13 senior wrestlers had been involved in match fixing and betting on outcomes of matches. While the scandal brought shame to the entire country, it also marked the first time in 65 years that the Japan Sumo Association’s Grand Tournament had been cancelled due to investigations and a lack of trust amongst competitors. The investigation followed on the heels of police searching phone records in an illegal baseball betting operation between wrestlers and middlemen in 2010.
5. Paul Hornung and Alex Karras Get Busted
Back in the 1960s, professional athletes didn’t get paid nearly enough for their efforts. In fact, some even worked side jobs to pay the bills! Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras were unfortunately busted when they thought they could get away with betting on their games. Hornung was the NFL MVP in 1961 while Karras was an All Pro tackle in each of the previous three seasons. It was found that Hornung was betting as much as $500 a game (which is $4,000 today) and Karras was betting anywhere from $50 to $200. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended the duo for the entire 1962 season, along with five other Detroit Lions for their parts in the scandal. Even with this checkered past, Hornung was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
4. 1978-79 Boston College and the Mob
In 1978 small time gamblers Rocco and Tony Perla recruited Rick Kuhn to join in on a little point shaving scheme during the Boston College Men’s Basketball season 1978 season. The scheme was simple; they would be point spreads in which there would be a large margin and Kuhn would make sure that BC did not cover the spread. For his efforts, or lack thereof, Kuhn was paid around $2,500 per bet that won. As the scheme grew, Kuhn recruited two teammates to join in and the Perlas were able to bring in Henry Hill, a Lucchese crime family associate from New York. The plan came to an end in 1980 when Hill was arrested on drug charges and he snitched on the group, ending in prison terms ranging from 10 to 30 years on racketeering and corruption charges for the parties involved.
3. 1951 NCAA Point Shaving Scandal
In 1950 the City College of New York made their way to be crowned NIT and NCAA Tournament Champions, however, the team’s success would be short lived at best. In February 1951, the NYC district attorney arrested seven men on charges of conspiring to fix basketball games; of these men, three were stars on the CCNY championship team. As investigators delved through the details, it was found that the scandal involved New York University, Long Island University, Manhattan College, Bradley University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Toledo. Kentucky was forced to sit out the entire 1952-53 season, while CCNY would end up moving to division III and LIU would have to drop all athletic programs from 1951-1957. In an effort to stamp out anymore corruption, it wasn’t until 1982 that the NCAA finally scheduled tournament games in the New York area again.
2. Pete Rose Gambles on the Hall of Fame
There is no doubt that former MLB player and manager Pete Rose was one of the toughest guys to ever play the game. His iconic head first sliding and short temper is a staple of what the Cincinnati Reds were during the 1980s. However, amid years of allegations that Rose had been betting on his team while he played and managed, it was finally found that the allegations were true just three years after he retired from the game as a player. In what was known as the Dowd Report, it became public knowledge that Rose bet a minimum of $10,000 per day. The damning report had so much evidence against Rose’s involvement in betting on baseball that he accepted a permanent ban from the game on August 24, 1989.
1. 1919 Chicago Black Sox
In a city like Chicago during the early 1900s, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the world of sports was infiltrated by organized crime. During the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, eight players were accused of intentionally throwing the series in exchange for cash. For various reasons, the players had decided to throw the series and there was evidence of massive bets coming in on the Reds before the start, causing their odds to fall rapidly. Announcers took notes of this and kept notes on players they felt were playing out of character. The Sox lost the bets of nine series in eight games and in September 1920, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte admitted to a Chicago Grand Jury their involvement in the scheme. Even though the jury acquitted all players, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first ever MLB Commissioner, placed all eight players on the ineligible list.