Easiest Sports To Rig for Betting – Betting Scandals and More

by Rick Rockwell
on April 20, 2018

Have you ever sat back and thought about how easy it could be for certain sports to rig games for betting purposes? Yes, we have had our fair share of betting scandals in the past, but that doesn’t mean that the scandals are over with. How can we be certain that the games we’re currently watching aren’t fixed?

In fact, some sports are much easier to rig than others, and we probably wouldn’t even know “the fix” was happening right in front of our faces. Not to mention that there are many big-time sports that have a long and dark history of gambling infestations.

So, put your conspiracy theory hats on and check out the following list of sports that I believe are easy to rig.

Baseball

Baseball is notorious for betting and gambling scandals. Some of the sport’s most historic figures have been banned due to their participation in fixing or betting on this cherished game. If you think about it, baseball is pretty easy to rig. A pitcher has the most direct control in a game as he can intentionally walk, strike out, hit or loft up a juicy pitch to any batter. You have hitters that can purposely strike out, runners can get caught stealing, and coaches can make controversial decisions. There’s a plethora of ways that the sport can be rigged for betting purposes.

The 1919 Black Sox scandal will live on in infamy, as it not only made for wonderful movies, but it also brought the marriage of gambling and sports to the forefront. During that era, baseball was America’s most popular and beloved sport. The World Series was a revered event that captured the nation. There are still some debates as to the intricate details of this World Series fix, but there’s no debating that a handful of White Sox players were found guilty of fixing the World Series despite being found innocent of their crimes in a court of law. In the end, 8 players were banned for life, and the sport of baseball would never be the same.

Perhaps no player’s lifetime ban has been more debated and scrutinized than that of Pete Rose. One of the greatest players to ever play the game is currently enduring a lifetime ban for betting on baseball while he was a manager for the Reds. The Dowd Report discovered that he bet on 52 Reds games in 1987 alone. There’s no telling how many games he actually influenced or if he bet against his own team. However, it’s 100% certain that Pete Rose bet on the game while being an active member of Major League Baseball.

Former Cy Young pitcher Denny McLain was suspended from baseball in 1970 for his association with gamblers and being part of a betting racket in the state of Michigan. In fact, he would end up being convicted in 1985 on charges of racketeering, extortion, and drug dealing. McLain went from a heralded star, and baseball’s last 30-win pitcher, to a convict with a 23-year sentence.

Players and coaches aren’t the only ones to have had a negative effect on baseball due to their gambling problems. Charlie Samuels was a clubhouse attendant with the New York Mets for 27 years and would give inside information to bookies. Even worse, he would take personal belongings of Mets players and sell them on the memorabilia market.

Basketball

From the college game to the NBA, betting scandals have been a historic calamity for the sport of basketball. Starting in the 1950s, point shaving has been a dark cloud over the game. Point shaving is when a team intentionally fails to score a certain amount of points so that they don’t cover a spread or total.

It’s very easy for a team to perform this treacherous feat. A missed shot, an errant pass, missed rebounds, and poor dribbling can be disguised without the majority of people even noticing. It’s also why point shaving has been so prevalent.

In 1951, college basketball barely survived a point-shaving scandal that involved 7 different basketball programs, 33 players, and organized crime. It reached the top of the collegiate sport, as the 1950 champion City College of New York was the main culprit. The 1951 NCAA tournament MVP Bill Spivey lost his award due to this scandal. In total, 86 games across 17 states were fixed. It was a gambling infestation of epic proportions.

Unfortunately, major point-shaving scandals didn’t end there.

The ‘60s saw a few small scandals, but it was the 1978-79 Boston College Eagles that turned back the clock with a major point-shaving scheme. This scandal involved some of our beloved characters from the movie Goodfellas, the Lucchese crime family, and key players on the BC basketball team.

A few low-level criminals approached BC basketball players about shaving some points and fixing games. These criminals eventually turned to Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro for financial backing. Okay, the 2 Hollywood stars weren’t involved, but they did portray mobsters (Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke) in the movie Goodfellas that got involved in this scheme. It wasn’t until Henry Hill’s post-arrest confession in 1980 that this scandal came to light. In the end, all of the conspirators, minus a few players, were put in prison. There are several good books and a great documentary on this scandal.

The 1985 Tulane Green Wave basketball program rocked the entire sport with a major scandal. Star player John “Hot Rod” Williams and 7 other people were involved in a drug-fueled point-shaving scheme that saw the entire coaching staff and athletic director resign, players arrested and charged, and a basketball program shut down for several years.

The ‘90s saw several big-time schools involved in point-shaving scandals with Arizona State in 1993-94 and Northwestern in 1994-95. Both programs had players arrested, sentenced, and banned from the sport. Even a few years ago, UTEP and a few other schools were suspected of point shaving.

It’s not only players and coaches involved in these scandals; referees have also been found to be corrupted by the thrill of gambling. In 2007-08, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was arrested and pled guilty to federal charges after being investigated for betting on games that he refereed. It was also believed that Donaghy had ties to organized crime.

Boxing

How many times have you watched a fight and wondered if that boxer took a dive, threw the fight, or somehow fixed the bout? It’s not far stretched to think fights are rigged when there’s a long history of boxing scandals that included presidents taking bribes, fighters loading their gloves, and promoters buying rankings in magazines. Through the mid-20th century, it was believed that the mob controlled this sport.

To this day, people still question Sonny Liston’s loss to Muhammad Ali in 1965 due to the highly disputed “phantom punch.” Many pundits feel this fight was fixed due to Liston’s ties to the underworld and his controversial death 5 years later.

Even more recently, the 1990 fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Meldrick Taylor is considered by many boxing pundits as the most controversial finish of a boxing match. Chavez and Taylor were both undefeated and fighting for the unified world super lightweight title. Taylor took it to Chavez like nobody had done in his previous 68 fights. Taylor was ahead by 5 or 6 rounds on the scorecards and was the superior boxer that night. Unfortunately, with 2 seconds left in the fight, after Taylor got up from a knockdown, the ref stopped the fight. Even with the knockdown, Chavez still would’ve lost by 4 or 5 rounds on the scorecard. Although it’s never been proven, there are many who believe this fight was fixed.

In 1947, there was a clear case of fight fixing that took 13 years to prove. “The Raging Bull” Jake LaMotta took on Billy Fox in a bout where LaMotta was the clear favorite. The mob had asked Jake to take the dive for a guaranteed $20,000 and a championship fight against Marcel Cerdan. Things went bad in the first round when LaMotta almost knocked out his opponent with just a few jabs. The Raging Bull would have to carry a wobbly Fox for 3 more rounds until LaMotta laid on the ropes and let Fox punch him. The ref called a TKO victory for Fox, and everyone in attendance realized that LaMotta had thrown the fight. In 1960, during a US Senate hearing, LaMotta admitted to fixing the fight for the mob.

Football

Football is another sport where, without corroborating evidence or testimonies, proving a “fix” would be difficult because it’s very easy to rig the game. We see bad throws, missed tackles, dropped passes, stupid penalties, fumbles, and questionable calls every single game. So, how would we be able to differentiate the common actions with actual “game fixing?”

In the past, the NFL would publicly declare their successful efforts of thwarting potential “game fixings” like with the 1946 Giants and the 1971 Oilers. But what about their unsuccessful attempts?

Football is the most popular sport to bet on and to watch. It’s also had an ugly history of gambling problems from the NCAA to the NFL.

The 1961 NFL MVP, Green Bay Packers legend Paul Hornung was suspended for the 1963 season along with Detroit Lions defensive lineman turned actor Alex Karras for betting on football games during the 1962 NFL season. Additionally, Karras had 5 teammates bet on the 1962 NFL title game between the Giants and Packers. Despite the season-long suspension, Hornung would eventually go on to enter the HOF, while Karras became a household name in the 1980s for his character George Papadopolis in the hit sitcom Webster. Can anyone honestly say that these two didn’t affect a game that they wagered on?

In the early ‘80s, Colts QB Art Schlichter became the first player suspended from the NFL for gambling since Karras and Hornung. He had a huge gambling addiction that eventually saw him “rat out” his bookies to the FBI due to large gambling debts. He bet on the NFL, NCAAF, and other sports. Schlichter’s gambling problems followed him even after he was done with the league, as he currently is in prison for a sports ticket scheme that racked up millions of dollars.

NFL owners have also been caught up in gambling-related problems. Former Colts and Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom was highly suspected of being a huge gambler. Former Eagles owner Leonard Tose was forced to sell the Eagles due to massive gambling debts. And former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. escaped jail time for briberies over a casino license.

It’s hard to think that these three owners, and many others, don’t have the power to fix a game whenever they want. An owner can easily have players benched, dictate play calling, and manipulate a wide range of factors.

College football has also had its fair share of betting scandals, none more infamous than the 1996 Boston College scandal that saw players bet against their own team. In total, 13 players were suspended for betting on college football and other sports.

Golf

Golf is a game of inches. An inch here or there could be the difference between a drop in the cup or a drop in the water. It also means that golfers could very well rig a game without anyone even noticing. A bad swing, the wrong club, and fans screaming could all be used as excuses to cover up any possible fixing.

Although there haven’t been any reported golf betting scandals that involved fixing a game, there have been some insane gambling tales tied to golf that make us wonder if there were some shenanigans going on.

John Daly was such a prolific gambler that he would leave a tournament and head straight to a casino to spend his winnings. A few year ago, Daly publicly admitted to losing roughly $55 million dollars in gambling. Yeah, let that one sink in!

Phil Mickelson has had his fair share of public exploits when it comes to betting on other sports. However, none were more significant than his ties to an illegal gambling operation where Phil was an alleged gambling client that transferred $2.75 million dollars to this organization.

With golfers like Mickelson and Daly blowing millions of dollars on gambling, it’s hard not to think that these greens weren’t the only greens being used for betting purposes.

Hockey

Canada’s favorite pastime, and America’s #4 pro sport, hasn’t seen as many betting scandals as other sports on this list. But it’s a sport that can also be easily manipulated for betting purposes. Just think about the last game you watched where a goalie let an easy shot go by. How about when a player misses a wide-open net or takes a silly penalty? When it comes to rigging a game, hockey has plenty of ways to accomplish this feat.

In the 1940s, hockey was turned upside down by two major betting scandals. The first gambling incident involved Walter “Babe” Pratt, who was considered one of the best defensemen of his era and one of the best players in the league at the time of this scandal. Pratt was a part of a gambling ring in the Maple Leaf Gardens and was caught betting on NHL games, but swore he never bet on or against his team. He was suspended indefinitely. However, after admitting his guilt, swearing to stop, and sincerely apologizing, Pratt was reinstated. In total, Babe was only suspended for 9 games. Walter would go on to become one of the 100 greatest players in the history of the sport. If only Pete Rose could’ve learned from Pratt’s example.

A year later, two Boston Bruins players were front and center in another ugly betting scandal. Don Gallinger and Billy Taylor bet against their own team over a three-month span during the 1947-48 season. After Taylor was traded, the duo still bet on games and were eventually caught on wiretap. Gallinger and Taylor received lifetime bans. In 1970, both players had their bans lifted. If these two guys can receive a pardon, perhaps baseball should look into giving one to “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

Operation Slapshot took place in 2006 when investigators uncovered a gambling ring orchestrated by Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet, who also played 22 years in the league. Tocchet, along with others, was arrested and charged with various crimes. Tocchet was able to avoid jail time. The investigation was unable to link this betting ring to fixing any NHL games, betting on any NHL games, or connections to the mob.

And lastly, who can forget the public nightmare for Jaromir Jagr, who had massive gambling debts, didn’t want to pay them, and then was publicly outed for them? He quickly settled up after that. But it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine that Jagr and other players have manipulated the outcome of a game for betting purposes.

Horse Racing

Other than boxing and baseball, no other sport has a longer history of being tied to gambling and betting scandals than horse racing. From stealing horses and lying about their level of experience to betting slips fraud and switching out horses with a better doppelganger, this sport continues to be under the watchful eye of investigators for scandals.

In 1974, an Irish betting ring helped to mastermind a horse racing fraud that is still talked about over 40 years later. The plan involved switching out horses, jockeys, and creating the illusion that Gay Future was an underdog, all to push the odds up and win a lot of money. In the end, the plan was executed perfectly, as the real Gay Future won by 15 lengths in his race at odds of 10-1. Unfortunately for those behind this plot, Scotland Yard got involved, and bookmakers refused to pay out the winners.

In 1982, the biggest betting scandal in the history of British horse racing took place. Flockton Grey was an underperforming two-year-old horse who was at 10-1 odds in a race at Leicester Racecourse. At the time of the race, the two scammers switched out Flockton with another horse named Good Hand, as they looked very similar. Good Hand was a three-year-old horse and more powerful than his competition. He would dominate the race and win by 20 lengths. The finish prompted an investigation, and bookmakers refused to pay out. In the end, the two men involved were suspended, fined, and blackballed.

In 2006, Australian jockey Chris Munce was one of seven people arrested in a Hong Kong “tips for bribery” scam. He provided tips on races, horses, and other insider information to a local businessman in Hong Kong. Munce was handed down a 30-month prison term, but only served 20 months of the sentence. Chris survived the prison term and throat cancer to go on and finish his career as one of the most accomplished jockeys in the history of Australian horse racing.

One of my favorite stories of this entire article involves jockey Damien Oliver. Here’s another Australian jockey who thought gambling was a great idea. In 2010, he placed a bet on a rival horse to defeat his horse he was riding in the same race. Oliver was found guilty of this illegal betting act in 2012, and would go on to serve a 10-month ban from racing. On the bright side, he did win $11,000 with this wager.

Sumo Wrestling

It’s hard to imagine sumo wrestling as a sport that would suffer from match fixing. This 2,000-year-old sport has more prestige than all of the other sports on this list combined. Unfortunately, just like the rest of the sports in this article, sumo wrestling suffered a massive betting scandal back in 2010. If you really think about it, fixing sumo wrestling wouldn’t be difficult at all. One wrestler can quit or take a dive easily. In 2010, it was all about fixing matches by deciding how the bout would end. The plot was uncovered via text messages. That’s why the mob would always say, “Don’t write anything down or talk about crimes over the phone.” Apparently, these sumo wrestlers didn’t watch Goodfellas.

None of the wrestlers who were accused of fixing matches were arrested. Perhaps if they bet on baseball like 15 other sumo wrestlers did that same year, they would’ve ended up in more trouble. Japan has very strict gambling laws, and the wrestlers were caught betting on baseball were arrested. Ultimately, these incidents shined a light on a dirty little secret that the sacred sport of sumo wrestling had direct ties to organized crime.

Tennis

Can you really tell when a tennis player hits a ball into the net on purpose or double faults on a serve? I sure can’t. With that said, tennis is another sport where a matter of inches can make all the difference in a point, set, and match. Fixing a match doesn’t require a mastermind to pull it off. Depending on the betting outcomes, a match could be thrown on the last point of the 5th and final set, or a player could just up and quit a match like the example below.

There have been numerous occurrences of match fixes over the last few decades. In 2016, Oliver Anderson was found guilty of fixing a match. The promising young Australian was able to avoid jail time but lost his career in the process. A few years prior, fellow Aussie Nick Lindahl was suspended for 7 years and fined $35,000 after throwing a match.

In 2007, a match between the former #3 ranked Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello was investigated for match-fixing. Online British gambling powerhouse Betfair notified tennis authorities that there were suspicious betting activities for this match. A total of $7 million was bet on this match, which is believed to be roughly 10 times more than the typical amount. Eventually, all bets were voided. A year later, both men were cleared of match-fixing. It just so happens that Russian bettors loved Arguello in this matchup, considering he was basically an unranked, overmatched opponent. Those Russian gamblers must’ve been dancing in the streets after winning their bets due to Davydenko quitting.

None of these mentioned examples should come as a surprise to us and definitely not to the sport. In 2005, the sport of tennis ignored the Ings report that warned of massive underperformance, corruption, and gambling ties within the amateur and professional ranks of tennis.

WWE

It’s not hard to imagine how the WWE can rig their sport. In fact, I’m sure many of you readers cringe at the fact that I just called the WWE a “sport.” It’s not so much an issue that something can be rigged; it’s more about how WWE insiders can turn the betting market upside down with their bets.

Case in point, back at Summer Slam 2017, a WWE insider bet a $3.36 parlay on all 10 PPV matches. This bettor ended up winning $45,600. This incident forced betting sites to change the way they take WWE wagers, and some online bookmakers even stopped taking wrestling bets altogether. It’s all fun and games until a WWE insider has to almost ruin it for the rest of us.

On the flip side, if Vince McMahon saw the betting lines prior to a PPV, he could decide the outcomes of the match based on these lines and rack up some cash. Fortunately, Vince doesn’t need the cash, but there are some insiders that might.

The Fix Is In

This is just a small sample of how gambling has infected every major sport. Some of these scandals have gone on to become pop culture lore, while others serve as a cautionary tale. Either way, when it comes to rigging a game, most of us would be clueless to the cheating going on right in front of our eyes.

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