Last month marked five years since the Supreme Court ruled that states had the power to allow legal sports gambling in their state. Now, half a decade later, 33 states allow legal sports betting on almost any sport imaginable. There are limits, however, to who can bet on certain sporting events to prevent bias or game fixing. For example, NFL players are allowed to bet on any sporting event that isn’t hosted by the NFL. Similarly, college athletes are not allowed to bet on any NCAA event where there is a championship such as football, basketball, or baseball. Nonetheless, there have been a frightening number of recent scandals involving athletes betting on sporting events and potentially compromising the integrity of the game.
On May 2, the NCAA notified the University of Iowa and announced that there was “potential criminal conduct related to sports wagering that also suggested possible NCAA violations.” Six days later, the school announced that 111 students were the subject of the investigation, with 26 being current athletes. Then, less than a week later, Iowa State University released the “approximately 15 athletes from football, wrestling, and track and field may have violated NCAA rules.”
In addition to collegiate athletes being the subjects of betting investigations recently, a number of professional athletes have also been involved with betting scandals in recent months. Last month, three NFL players were suspended for an entire season as a result of violating the league’s betting policy. The league found those players were not only betting while in NFL facilities, but also betting directly on NFL games. Then, only a few weeks later, Major League Soccer (MLS) player Max Alves was suspended indefinitely by the Colorado Rapids after the team found that Alves took $12,000 to commit a yellow card foul in a September game, which he did after just over a minute on the field.
Alves’ incident is not the only instance of someone in a sports organization potentially throwing games for the motivation of payment. In April, Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon was suspended and later fired after the team was notified that Bohannon was in communication with someone who bet against the Crimson Tide baseball team. The Louisiana Gaming Control Board found that “both bets–one of which was ‘large’–had LSU winning.”
While these instances are some of the only ones that have been discovered so far, there are certainly more to come. With betting advertisements being shoved in fans’ faces, there are bound to be players and coaches who take the bait and choose to break team or league rules. To ensure that the integrity of the game stays solid for years to come, betting scandals must be treated seriously and met with strong and swift action from leagues.