All Bets Are Off

All bets are off.

Or should be.

It’ll never happen.

The cat’s out of the bag.

It’s a part of our culture.  It always was. But not to the extent it is now.

Danger is lurking. We’ve seen some of it already.

The danger is about scandal, and perhaps even worse, addiction.

Scandal in sports betting is a part of its history.

The Black Sox scandal, Pete Rose, college basketball point-shaving in the 50’s and 60’s, an NBA referee.

Those are the events we know about.

There are probably many others.

Once upon a time, the integrity of the game in all sports was paramount.

Commissioners and the respective leagues used that call as the foundation for why we watched, why we rooted, why we were obsessed with sports.

There would be no question when we viewed games, that teams were out to win, and players were out to win, period.

If there were doubts, then what was the point in getting involved?

If the games weren’t honest, if the games were fixed in any way, why would we waste our time?

The integrity of the game was everything.

There were signs in every ballpark and arena, prohibiting betting by players.

In fact, on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium, there was a sign you couldn’t miss. It read “No Betting Permitted”.

But as we see in every facet of life, things change.

It was, surprise, all about money.

I am not railing about how money has altered all sports dramatically.

It has, and it’s now

a way of life.

Television rights fees, players’ salaries in pro sports, and yes, players salaries in college sports. The advent of Name-Image-Likeness in the collegiate ranks has earned college athletes millions of dollars.

We see it in the PGA-LIV Pro Golf Tours, and, well, we just see it everywhere.

What has changed in the world of betting are the gambling sites on-line, and, of course, on your iPhone, which makes betting easy.

What also has changed is the emphatic endorsement of the pro sports leagues who have embraced, and in turn, encouraged fans to gamble.

Here’s what’s happened lately.

The NBA suspended for life, Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter for betting on basketball and giving information to a bettor to improve their odds.

Federal investigators charged the former interpreter of Dodgers baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani with stealing more than 16-million from the player to pay for his huge gambling habit.

Last year, the NFL suspended five players for betting on NFL games.

They have all been reinstated after sitting out the 2023 season.

Since 2018, 11 players and at least one assistant coach have been suspended for violating NFL gambling rules.

Here are the basics of the rules:

Don’t bet on the NFL.

Don’t gamble at your team facility, while traveling for a road game, or staying at a team hotel.

Don’t have someone bet for you.

Don’t share inside information.

Don’t enter a sports book during the NFL playing season.

Don’t play fantasy football.

Who are we kidding?

People bet because they say it adds to their enjoyment of the game.

They bet because they feel they can win their bet.

They bet because they feel that they have the information that can win that bet.

Why wouldn’t a player, who knows what others don’t know, make a bet?

Today, it is so easy to place a bet. You no longer have to find a bookie to call.

Just use your iPhone.

And not only bet to win, which translates into point-spreads and over-under point totals for the game, but a million other happenings known as prop bets.

Who will win the coin toss?  Who will catch the first pass? Which pitcher will strike out the first batter?

You name it, you can bet on it.

The over-under on the length of the playing of the nationals anthem.

You get the idea.

In the case of the NBA’s Porter, the league investigation concluded that before a game on March 20, “Porter disclosed confidential information about his health to an NBA bettor”. Someone else who knew Porter placed an $80,000 parlay, with potential winnings of $1.1 million, that Porter would under perform in the game.

This is scary stuff.

Who can really police all the activity of those who play the game and can affect its outcome?

What is even more scary, I believe, are the non-players, the average guy, the average kid, who thinks he knows enough to win bets.

Recently, some people came to our house and fix something.

One of them, a 24-year old youngster told me he liked to gamble on his phone. I asked him how he was doing?

He told me had lost $1000.

I said why so much?

He said he when he was losing he thought he could get it back, but it got worse.

He told me he liked to go shopping, but that he was unable to do that now.

I told him gambling was dangerous as he had learned, but if he had to do it, betting small amounts that he could afford was the safe way to go.

It’s easy to tell someone that betting isn’t wise.

But that isn’t reality.

Gambling is a way of life.

It’s being addicted to it that is the real threat.

You hear the phrase, “if you drink, drink responsibly”, just as we hear, “ if you bet, bet responsibly”.

I’m not sure to what degree those phrases reach people.

What I do feel strongly about is that I think we’ve seen only the tip of the iceberg of the dangers of a major scandal resulting from sports gambling as it relates to college and professional sports.

And just as strongly, the serious personal dangers to those individuals of any age, who can easily ruin their lives by going too far when it comes to sports gambling.