Baseball’s Checkered Past With Gambling No Longer an Issue 0

As popular as sports are in the United States, one of the driving forces behind the industry is gambling. According to the Nevada Gaming Commission, $3.2 billion was spent on sports gambling in the state’s casinos alone in 2011, with 41 percent of that amount being wagered on football. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

It does not matter what sport you are talking about, you are likely to find that someone is providing odds on the contests and that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions being bet on the event. For example, in 2016, the American Gaming Association estimated $9.2 billion was spent on the NCAA March Madness event. This included wagers made through both legal and illegal means as well as office pools. Most telling is that of that $9.2 billion, only $262 million was made with sports books in Nevada, leading many insiders to propose that more than 75 percent of gambling is done illegally.

The Darker Side of Gambling in Baseball

While betting is not new to the sports world, no sport has been more affected by the activity than baseball and basketball. Betting became a huge issue in America’s Pastime dating back to 1919, when the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series. While organized crime had long been suspected of being involved in the sport, this event changed baseball and the sports world in general in many ways.

For the first time, a major sporting organization selected a commissioner to oversee the conduct of players, managers, and owners, and eight of the players who were accused of being involved in the scandal, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Eddie Cicotte, were banned from the sport by newly named Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis despite being found not guilty in court. The “Black Sox” scandal, as it became known, led to rules against players and managers being able to bet on the game.

That did not seem to affect baseball great Pete Rose who, in 1989, was banned from the game for life after it was discovered that he had allegedly been betting on baseball, including his own team. Rose spent more than $10,000 per day on gambling, leading to his permanent expulsion and barring from Hall of Fame eligibility.

Basketball Has Its Own Dark Corners

Only basketball can come close to baseball in terms of the scarring left behind from gambling. In 1951, it was discovered that the City College of New York basketball team, the squad that won the NIT and NCAA tournaments, had been fixing games. Seven players were arrested and it was soon discovered that six other schools were involved in the game fixing scheme, including the University of Kentucky.

In 1978, Rick Kuhn of the Boston Celtics was paid by local gamblers to make sure that the team did not cover large point spreads. He was paid $2,500 for each game he fixed. Kuhn later recruited two teammates to assist him and, after the three were discovered, they were each sentenced to between 10 and 30 years in prison.

In 2007, NBA on court official Tim Donaghy was discovered to have been giving material to gamblers and bookies about injuries and other information that could have affected the outcome of games. While not directly accused of fixing games, the revelation resulted in his immediate dismissal and he was charged and later sentenced to 15 months in prison on federal conspiracy charges.

Betting Is Still a Huge Part of the Game…Even for Players

Because of events like these, all professional and college sports have sought to remove the temptation for players to get involved with gamblers and organized crime families, by imposing very strict rules on conduct related to gambling. In Major and Minor League Baseball clubhouses across the country, the rules regarding gambling are posted in the locker room of every team, instituted even before the incident with Rose.

Despite this, players still gamble and spend millions of dollars each year betting on games and events in other sports. NBA great Michael Jordan openly admitted that he gambled on a regular basis, reportedly even on whose bag would reach the conveyor belt at the airport first. The gambling bug has also caught fellow NBA great Charles Barkley, golfer John Daly, former NFL quarterback Michael Vick, and NFL tough guy Rick Tocchet, as well as English Soccer legend Wayne Rooney.

The Internet Has Opened the Door to Even Greater Access

While many are concerned about the impact of gambling on sports, the truth is that athletes, coaches, and owners, as well as millions of fans enjoy this part of the games and events more than they do rooting for a team. They want to be a winner as well, and hope that they have discovered the formula that will help them to make a bet that is destined to be a “sure thing.”

The internet has only increased the amount of opportunities available for fans and players alike to bet on their favorite team, or on any team for that matter. Sites such have afforded fans across the globe the opportunity to make wagers on any event.

The Odd World of Baseball Gambling

Despite its checkered past, baseball is still a popular sport for gamblers to wager on, more so than any other sport but football. This is true despite the confusing manner in which some baseball wagers are made.

In sports such as football and basketball, wagers are made in one of two ways: on the total points scored (over/under) and the point difference. For example, a line for a football game where the Pittsburgh Steelers are visiting the Cincinnati Bengals might be -3 and +35. This means that the home team, Cincinnati, is expected to win by three and the total number of points that are expected to be scored in the game is 35. If one bets on Pittsburgh and the Steelers lose 31-30, the better still wins because they were given 3-points. If the score was 31-28, no one would win. Pretty simple.

However, baseball wagering can be a bit more confusing. While some sites, such as, offer you the ability to bet on over/under and run differential, others use the moneyline as a wagering option. At sites like, you are given odds such as Boston +170, Yankees -200. What this means is that if you bet $100 on Boston you get $170 if they win. However, if you bet $200 on the Yankees you only get $100. These bets are made only on who will win while lines are not included.

Understand the Law

The internet has opened the door for gambling to become significantly more accessible. However, you should be aware that it may be illegal to place a wager in the state you live in even if you are on a site where the company headquarters is located in a state where online gambling is legal. Some sites block users from making illegal bets. For example, if one were to go to one of the online sports bookmakers in a state like Kansas, they would be barred from gaining access because it is illegal in the Midwest state to gamble online.

Not all websites offer this courtesy, however. You want to check with local laws before making any wagers to make sure that you are not in violation of the state statutes.