For some, watching sports is just a leisure activity, but it’s all about taking a risk for others. It’s a
rainy Tuesday night. I turn on Netflix, and a documentary instantly catches my eye. It’s about
former National Basketball Association referee Tim Donaghy who was jailed in 2008 for his part
in a sports gambling scheme. Donaghy gave tips nightly to bettors on what lines to take while
refereeing some of these games. The interesting part of it all was that the NBA made sure that
Donaghy was the only referee who went down, even after several other refs admitted to
gambling in FBI interviews. Seemingly, this was to make sure the integrity of the game wasn’t
questioned by fans or critics. It made me think about how different the relationship between
sports gambling and national sports leagues is now compared to 10 years ago.
National sports leagues like the NBA, NFL, and MLB have shied away from sports gambling for
decades, but there has been a dangerous shift. It has become increasingly hard to ignore how
much gambling has become synonymous with major league sports. From commercials
promoting betting to the sports announcers giving betting lines live during games. Sports analyst
Jalen Rose gave out betting picks on national television during the NBA Finals during the
According to Statista, sports betting revenue was $4.33 billion in 2021. The major sports league
has decided to cash in on the phenomenon that sports betting has become. Also, in 2021 both the
NBA and NFL announced partnerships with sportsbook operators, DraftKings and FanDuel. In
states where betting is legal, fans can download sportsbook apps and bet from the comfort of
their home. This action leaves some to ask, where is the integrity that these leagues once had
when it came to disassociating sports gambling?
The popularity of sports betting is even hard for athletes to avoid. Countless professional athletes
have faced serious repercussions for indulging in gambling, dating back to the fixed 1919 World
Series. Most recently, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley. According to ESPN, Ridley
used his phone to place bets on his team and other NFL games. He was suspended for the entire
2022 NFL season.
Florida A&M graduating senior, Jordan Barrett, said that he feels leagues have blurred the lines
between gambling and sports.
“It’s hard to watch sports and not want to bet,” Barrett said. “It’s dangled in your face all game
and who doesn’t want to make money while enjoying a good game. Last year when we were able
to use the Hard Rock app I was placing bets every day,” he added.
In November of 2021, the Hard Rock sportsbook app was available to Floridians but was shut
down just one month later after a judge ruled the app illegal. Floridians will have the chance to
vote on the legalization of online gambling again in 2024.