In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the issue of professional athletes and sports betting.
Let’s be honest with ourselves before we get any further.
We probably all know somebody who loves to gamble. There are 3 people in The Jump Hub office alone who would count it among their top 3 favourite things to do.
No, we’re not going to discuss the other things…
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH GAMBLING
There. We’ve said it
The industry is often demonized and made into the scapegoat for society’s ills.
But the practice is as old as humanity itself.
Providing it is done in a spirit of entertainment and does not impinge upon the individual’s life and mental health then gambling is not an issue.
Sports fans the world over enjoy a flutter now and again
It’s a great way to liven up any sporting contest and is relatively harmless. That is provided you stick to the rules and never bet more than you can afford to lose.
So, we can surely understand then, why NBA players also enjoy sports betting. They are young, interested in sports, wealthy, and have a lot of spare personal time on their hands. It stands to reason that some of them would turn to gambling as a way to pass the time.
Many NBA players play poker among friends or in tournaments.
Some choose to risk insane amounts of money playing Booray – the banalest of all card games where it is hideously easy to have huge amounts of money on the table.
THAT’S FINE. IT’S THEIR MONEY
The kids won’t go without diapers that week if they lose a few card games.
The gambling problem in this scenario does not revolve around the fact that they are negatively affecting their lives and those of the people around them. It stems from the fact that if NBA players are allowed to bet on the outcomes of NBA games then…
…THE POTENTIAL FOR CORRUPTION IS SIMPLY TOO GREAT
The reasoning goes that, if an NBA player bets on the result of his own sport then it is impossible for us to know if he is exerting improper influence and working against the best interests of his team mates and club.
WHEN TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ARE AT STAKE…
…such activities might be undertaken in order to turn that bet into a winning one.
Imagine if a player were allowed to bet that his team would lose big in one game?
It would take a huge leap of faith to presume it were a coincidence should that prediction come true with that player on the court.
This is precisely why it is expressly forbidden for any NBA coach or NBA player to bet on their own sport.
ALL MAJOR SPORTS LEAGUES HAVE STRICT RULES
They prohibit players from betting on games in their own sport.
The NBA is no exception and its constitution specifically states that:
…ANY PERSON WHO, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, WAGERS MONEY OR ANYTHING OF VALUE ON THE OUTCOME OF ANY GAME WILL RECEIVE AN UNAPPEALABLE PUNISHMENT FROM THE COMMISSIONER SUCH AS A FINE, SUSPENSION, EXPULSION AND/OR PERPETUAL DISQUALIFICATION FROM FURTHER ASSOCIATION WITH THE NBA.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t still happen
There are high-profile examples of professional sports players ruining their careers for the sake of their desire to bet on sports that they participated in themselves.
All the players who sign up to be a part of the greatest basketball tournament the world has ever seen know the score.
YOU DON’T BET ON THE NBA
AND THAT’S FINAL
LAWS IN SPORTS BETTING
Here is an excerpt from the law on acceptable wagers in Indiana.
States will vary to some degree in their wording and the nuances of the law, but it gives a good indication of how most states view gambling policies.
THE COMMISSION SHALL REQUIRE A CERTIFICATE HOLDER AND VENDOR TO TAKE COMMERCIALLY REASONABLE MEASURES TO ENSURE THAT A CERTIFICATE HOLDER OR VENDOR DOES NOT ACCEPT WAGERS PLACED BY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
A partnership, a corporation, an association, or any other entity that is not an individual.
A person who is not at least twenty-one (21) years of age.
A certificate holder, a vendor, a director, officer, or employee of the certificate holder or vendor, or a relative living in the same household of a certificate holder or vendor.
A sports wagering service provider, a director, officer, or employee of a sports wagering service provider, or a relative living in the same household of a sports wagering service provider.
With respect to a sporting event sponsored, organized, or conducted by a particular sports governing body, any of the following: (a) An employee of the sports governing body. (b) A game official employed by or under contract with the sports governing body. (c) A coach, manager, or other personnel employed by or under contract with a member club of the sports governing body. (d) An athlete who is under contract with a member club of the sports governing body in the case of a team sport. (e) An athlete who is eligible to participate in events conducted by the sports governing body in the case of an individual sport.
An employee of a union representing athletes or game officials.
A relative living in the same household of an individual described in clauses (a) – (e).
An individual convicted of a state or federal crime relating to sports wagering.
Section 5 is particularly revealing in terms of NBA players and whether or not it’s ok for them to gamble on a basketball game.
IT IS CLEAR THAT NO PLAYER UNDER CONTRACT CAN PLACE BETS ON THEIR OWN SPORT
This also applies to officials, managers, coaches and any other employee of a team that is subject to the sports governing body.
Before we feel too sorry for them, it’s important to remember something.
They can always bet on any other sport as and when they wish.
ALL NBA PLAYERS ARE REQUIRED TO COMPLETE A MANDATORY GAMBLING AWARENESS PROGRAM
This is designed to prevent gambling in the NBA.
Any player that is found placing a direct or indirect bet will have to answer to the Association and the Commissioner.
Breaking the NBA gambling policy can lead to a hefty fine.
But there are other recourses of action in an industry where fines are not a particularly punitive measure.
If the Association and the Commissioner find the charged athlete guilty, they may impose:
THEIR DECISIONS ARE FINAL, NOT OPEN TO APPEAL
Athletes can generally wear the odd fine or two. We’ve all heard stories of arrogant football players parking their cars wherever they want and just paying the fine afterwards.
But no professional athlete wants to find themselves in the position of being banned from playing the sport they love.
LEGALIZED SPORTS BETTING
One change in the nature of gambling in the USA that has complicated matters is the advent of legal sports betting in so many states and online.
The days when an individual had to physically enter a bookmaker’s establishment in Las Vegas to place bets are long gone.
Anyone who wants to wager money can now do so incredibly easily. There are a number of ways to gamble in the USA – see our in-depth article on what states allow sports betting for a deeper look.
In essence, all you need to do is download an app and you’re able to place a bet.
HOW DO WE FIND OUT IF ATHLETES ARE SPORTS BETTING ILLEGALLY?
Even though more and more states are allowing legalized sports betting, the illegal bookie has not yet been consigned to the history books.
Any professional athlete knows that making bets themselves would be exceedingly foolhardy and in the past, it was common for an agent to be used.
They would place the bets and collect any winnings on behalf of sports players who asked them to do so.
Remember that even the relatives of most sports players are not allowed to bet on the sport in question either.
There is something that scared agents away from these, surprisingly not illegal ways. States require ID to bet and collect personal information when betting/winnings reach a certain level. If they have been placing and cashing out large amounts for a while, then they risk shining a light onto themselves that no dodgy character relishes.
The source of such funds would also be tantalisingly close to anyone poking their nose around
LONG TERM SOLUTIONS
We hope that every sporting commissioner holds the same idea to be true when it comes to sports gambling.
MAINTAINING THE INTEGRITY OF THE LEAGUE IS NON-NEGOTIABLE
No individual or team is bigger than the NBA. None can be allowed to bring it into disrepute and tarnish its image. And while that seems somewhat cliché, it remains key to the ongoing success of the league. Nothing deters fans from becoming invested in their local team and devoting a lifetime of support to them than the notion that cheating abounds.
We’re not talking about the kind of cheating where a player holds another’s jersey to stop him from escaping being marked. We’re talking about a level where the player has sold his soul to the devil and is actively working to his own agenda in order to make a million dollars.
Most sports leagues are now fully integrated with sportsbook operators. If the league wants to avoid a plethora of problems and issues in the near future then it is essential that the rules and regulations regarding the whole relationship are scrutinized and enhanced if necessary.
Each league goes about things slightly differently. One place where they all converge, however, is in their ‘internal investigations’ tactics. In order to protect that keystone integrity of the game, departments are put in place to investigate all counter-productive behaviour from players and officials. That can range from the use of banned drugs (performance-enhancing or otherwise) and includes gambling. Images of nerdy officious types could not be further from the truth. These investigators are often former police officers or professional detectives and the matter is taken incredibly seriously.
It’s clear to anyone that there are good reasons why sports betting rules need to be applied to sportsbook operators and sports players alike. Surely it’s not the biggest imposition to require that a professional athlete limit their gambling to literally
EVERY OTHER SPORT ON PLANET EARTH?
As sports fans, we don’t ask for much.
Just the undying loyalty of any player who comes into our team.
That and that they operate at the absolute maximum of physical perfection at all times and train like madmen. Give their absolute all every time they pull on our team jersey for a game and don’t make any mistakes.
Oh, and don’t do anything that would reflect badly on the team ethos ok? Drinking and drugs are out.
Alright – so clearly we do ask a lot of our sports stars.
BUT WE PAY THEM HANDSOMELY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE…
There are young guys across the USA who would pull out their own teeth to play in the NBA.
See our article entitled – ‘What are the odds of making it to the NBA?‘ for an idea of just how difficult it is.
What possible hardship can it cause to ask / demand that pro athletes refrain from betting on a sport where they can have a direct influence on the outcome?
Players are still obviously highly invested in all things basketball-related. Typically they are very interested in the NCAA March Madness tournament, especially if their own college is participating.
Many NBA players fill out brackets just like countless Americans and enter March Madness pools. That’s great.
NO CONFLICT OF INTEREST THERE
Just a good old-fashioned desire to see your team win a game.
AND A FEW (THOUSAND) DOLLARS ON THE LINE JUST TO SPICE THINGS UP A LITTLE…
No problem. It’s not as though we’re demanding that they never bet on basketball. Just refrain from wagering on those games where your own actions can literally decide the outcome would you chaps?