Parker’s Sports Corner: The sports gambling bubble is about to burst


Watching the Philadelphia 76ers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game on TNT last Tuesday, one thing stood out to me beyond superstar Joel Embiid’s return to the court after two months on the sidelines: you cannot get away from gambling.

Before the game, the TNT pregame show crew gave the audience a five-leg parlay (a bet consisting of two or more bets that are combined into one wager) of the night, sponsored by FanDuel. 

During the game, the announcers gave a live update of the in-game betting spread, and how it’s changed since the beginning of the game. 

And during every commercial break, I was bombarded by a plethora of ads for gambling sites with some celebrity or retired athlete brand ambassador,  throwing a “first-time user” cash bonus in my face.

Every time you watch your favorite sport on TV in America, it is impossible to avoid the slew of gambling promotions that you will be subjected to. 

This has caused a marriage between sports gambling and sports themselves, breaking a wall that used to be stern and indestructible.

Before 2018, when the Supreme Court dissolved a federal law that banned sports gambling in most U.S. states, the sports and gambling industries were completely separate. 

Teams were terrified to touch anything related to gambling in fear of compromising the integrity of the game, and there was even a reluctance to move any professional teams to Las Vegas in fear of the city’s connection with gambling.

Now, we will likely have all four major professional sports in Las Vegas, with the Athletics pending move to Vegas and the NBA’s inevitable expansion likely headed to Sin City. Crazier yet, professional teams are now sponsored by sportsbooks and are not shy about promoting their connection to gambling. 

Connection to gambling from a team perspective has been going on for some time now, but what inspired me to write this article is recent developments regarding players’ connection to gambling. 

There should be an even clearer border between players and gambling, as players can directly manipulate the games for gambling profit, completely deteriorating any integrity in sports.

In the past month, two investigations have been opened regarding a professional player’s connections to gambling. 

One was from the best player in baseball, Shohei Ohtani, whose translator allegedly stole $4.5 million from Ohtani to pay off his gambling debt. Ohtani’s team is claiming he is a victim of massive theft, but could Ohtani himself have a connection to the gambling? 

It’s feasible that Ohtani was either covering his translator’s debt himself or using his translator as a cover for his own gambling exploits. These are just theories, and we may never know what happened, but the best player in the MLB being connected to such a scandal is certainly concerning.

The other investigation is for a far lesser-known basketball player, Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter. The NBA is investigating games on January 26th and March 20th where bets involving his “unders” were the biggest money makers for gamblers across all NBA prop bets on DraftKings that night.

The fact that this occurred twice for such an unknown player is doubtful to be a coincidence. Before the scandal, I didn’t even know who Porter was, and I consider myself to be a huge NBA fan. So, why would Jontay Porter prop bets be the biggest winner on two different nights if nothing fishy was at play?

It must be said that both cases are under investigation and we cannot make any definitive statements about them until their investigations are completed. 

When you combine these cases with teams’ strong connection to gambling and the promotion of gambling at every turn during a sporting event, it feels like there is a sports gambling bubble on our hands.

With players now getting involved in scandals, it feels like this bubble is about to pop. We are not far from a massive gambling scandal that has to potential to shatter the sports world to its core. We’ve seen issues of rigging games with former NBA referee Tim Donaghy in the early 2000s, and that was before gambling was so strongly a part of sports culture. If it could happen then, it could happen now and I’m not sure we’re ready for the repercussion of our obsession with gambling.

At this point, you may be thinking: why do you care? Sure, gambling and sports are more connected than ever, but it’s simply a different time, and you can just not gamble if you don’t want to.

While it is true that no one is forcing anyone to gamble themselves, as a huge sports fan, it’s disappointing to see such an enjoyable part of our culture be so strongly linked to such an ugly part of our culture. Sports are supposed to serve as an escape from the stresses of our day-to-day lives, but they are now all too often a vehicle for financial distress. 

This marriage between sports and gambling will only continue to grow stronger, too, potentially jeopardizing the purity of the games we love.




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