Calling the Shots: Gambling scandals run rampant in sports; Recent lawsuit begs question: Are fantasy sports a form of gambling?


Cincinatti Reds manager Pete Rose sits in the dugout as he contemplates his betting scandal. Rose initially denied that he ever bet against his own team, but it was later found that he did place wagers against the Reds while he was the team’s manager in the 1980s.

Dan Miranda, Sports Editor

The phrase “degenerate gambler” has become household lingo for bettors who have gambling addictions.

The negative reputation for the activity is widespread, but there are also a great number of people who participate in the activity every single day.

Sports gambling has a long history in the United States.  Notably, in 1919, eight members of the Chicago White Sox bet against their own team in the World Series.  In 1984, then-Cincinatti Reds manager Pete Rose was found to be betting against his team.  In 2007, it was found that NBA official Tim Donaghy was betting on games that he was officiating.  In all three cases, those who were found to be altering the outcome of the game were permanently banned from playing, managing, and officiating ever again.

To some, it may not be a surprise that those on the inside would try to alter games.  It may be because the sports gambling industry is huge in America, and 99 percent of it happens illegally.  In 2011, $2.88 billion was legally wagered in sports books at Nevada betting casinos.  According to the American Gaming Association, this represented less than one percent of all wagers placed in America.

Most recently, New Jersey tried to give sports betting options, but their attempt was blocked in the courts by the four major professional leagues and the NCAA.  Sports leagues in the United States—the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL—have taken a strong stance against the gambling, claiming that allowing gambling will hurt the games’ reputations.

According to lawsuit testimonies, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has listed gambling as the number one threat to the National Football League’s prosperity as a sport.

“Federal government needs money, going over a cliff, cities need money.  Chris Christie needs money.  But gambling is so … the threat of gambling and to create more threat is to me — I’m stunned,” said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, in a media session after the lawsuit went to court.

Interestingly enough, each of the leagues has established its own fantasy sports, where fans of the sport can create teams of different players.  The leagues are the one who organize these fantasy leagues, and ultimately the ones who profit off the additional page views and interest in their league.

In order for gambling to take any strides in the public’s opinion, there needs to be a shift from “degenerate activity” to  thinking about sports betting as an equivalent to investing in the stock market.   When you put money on a stock, you are betting that the stock will rise.  And studies suggest that sports gambling is starting to be viewed as a positive, rather than a negative.

A survey conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll found that 51 percent of people nationally favored legalizing online gambling. This was the first time in the history of the poll being asked that more were in favor of legalizing gambling than not.

Although the federal government and  sports leagues themselves have taken strong stances against the legalization of the activity, one thing is for certain: sports gambling will continue illegally at high rates.