Gambling with a reputation: Sports stars and their betting scandals


Who doesn’t love a punt on their team at the weekend? There’s not much like seeing your boys stomp home to victory and pocketing a few bills while you’re at it. Like us mere mortals, the rich and famous love a flutter too. The likes of Charlie Sheen, Floyd Mayweather, and George Clooney make no apology for their dealings with bookmakers over the years and why should they? Just because they’ve got a bigger purse to splash around with doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be eligible if someone’s willing to take the bet.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out quite so innocently, and often those in positions of power will try to affect things to see a bet go their way. That’s the most common reasoning behind the scandals we bring you today. Whether it’s match fixing or betting on themselves, these global sporting stars landed in hot water for their gambling antics. Whether you think you’re a high roller yourself, or perhaps you’d rather use free spins and never deposit, you’re unlikely to be daft enough to try any of these at home. Therefore, we’ll forgo the cliché warning.

Toronto Raptors star Charles Oakley and Philly power-forward Tyrone Hill were both evicted from a preseason game in 2000. The story goes that a feud over a gambling debt on a game of dice had spilled over onto the court. During the game Oakley even slapped Hill in the mouth over the outstanding $54,000. Later in the same season Oakley was suspended again for throwing a basketball directly at Hill. What’s more, even though hill eventually settled the debt, Oakley demanded even more cash. He was reported to have said “Everything in life is double. If he didn’t pay me $108,000, he didn’t pay me.”

Conflict of interest?

Back in the 60s Green Bay Packer Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions’ Alex Karras were banned from the league for their own gambling misdemeanor. For obvious reasons, NFL stars aren’t allowed to bet on the NFL – something about a conflict of interest, I’d imagine. That didn’t stop these two legends of the field having a punt of their own though. Both were suspended, Karras for “at least six bets of $50 to $100” and Hornung, according to then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, for betting “as much as $500 on NFL games from 1959-61”. Today their bets might look miniscule but before scoffing and moving onto some more modern big-money examples, remember that a dollar in the mid-60s was worth a lot more than it is today, and wages of sports stars were considerably lower too.

Vick in the dog house

Without doubt our most appalling celebrity gambling scandal. In 2007 Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick plead guilty to bankrolling gambling on an illegal event, and for executing dogs. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison for the barbaric role he played in organizing a dog fighting ring that spanned over nine different states. One ESPN source even claimed that Vick was seen placing a staggering $40,000 bet on a single fight at Bad Newz Kennels. Of course, a great many animals were injured and killed in the time Vick’s and associates could get away with their sick deeds and for many the sentence seemed lenient. For those concerned about the ones that were eventually rescued, check out the movie The Champions (2015). Real heartwarming stuff.


Sutton United reserve goalie and manager Wayne Shaw was forced to resign following an incident the UK press dubbed “pie-gate”. Cheeky rag-of-the-people The Sun’s betting arm had offered odds on the 45-year-old to eat a pie during an FA Cup clash with Arsenal FC. To be fair, they even offered an impressive 8/1 on it happening too. Apparently without thinking, Shaw consumed the pastry in front of TV cameras and landed himself in a whole lot of trouble. Claiming regret over the mistake, he left his boyhood club behind. Although he didn’t actually partake in betting himself, sources claim that several of his friends had backed it and the media storm that followed left him was two options: jump or be pushed.

1919 Chicago Black Sox

Another trip back into the annals of history now. All the way to the glory days of baseball. In Chicago in the inter-war years, organized crime had their fingers in just about every pie going. During the 1919 Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds World Series game, there were allegations that the mob had paid off eight individual players to throw the game. Announcers noted evidence of massive bets coming in on the Reds before the start of the game, causing their price to drop significantly. They also picked up on several of the players reportedly acting “out of character.”

The event was later dubbed the “Black Sox Scandal” and in 1921, for their own involvement in the match-throwing, a judge banned all eight men from playing in the league again.


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