The Penalty Box: Gambling

June 26, 2024 at 8:00 a.m.


I am not a man to brag, nor am I one to scream to the world “I told you so.”
But I warned you all when sports gambling became an acceptable part of society it would change sports in a way that would not be better.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening.
Indiana was one of the early states to adopt new laws to allow sports gambling. Those new laws took effect on September 1, 2019—a year after the US Supreme Court struck down sports gambling laws in most states that we’d been living under since 1992.
It took that year to organize it all—the mechanics of how to play, how the revenue would be recorded, how the tax money generated would be used by the state…all of it.
But they got it together just in time for the NFL season in 2019.
I have already spent enough time warning about the moral issues with gambling. I don’t need to tell you about how Americans spent $10.5 billion on sports betting last year, which was 25-percent more than the year before.
We’re way past that.
The other part of my warning was that the legitimacy of the sports we are watching would eventually be compromised by participants betting on their own sporting events and others.
I offer as evidence:
- Dodger star Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Misuhara pled guilty to bank and tax fraud charges that carries a maximum sentence of 33 years.
He’s admitted to taking the Japanese star’s money—to the tune of $17 million of his money—to feed his own gambling addiction.
An internal baseball investigation determined that Ohtani didn’t know what his right-hand man was doing, and he was allowed to keep playing.
But can we prove he didn’t know? Doesn’t baseball have a lot to gain by him being on the field? Wouldn’t protecting their most popular player benefit them financially and in many other ways?
Wouldn’t MLB getting caught in a gambling cover up be a monstrous disaster?
- Atlanta Braves infielder David Fletcher bet on sports with the same bookmaker who took bets from Mizuhara, according to a report from ESPN's Tisha Thompson last month.
Thompson also reported that Fletcher allegedly bet on multiple sports but didn't place any wagers on baseball.
She also reported that Colby Schultz, Fletcher's friend and a former farmhand of the Kansas City Royals, allegedly bet on baseball games, including ones involving the Angels.
For the record, Major League Baseball players are permitted to wager on sports other than baseball, so long as they're with a legal bookmaker. Players who make wagers with an illegal bookmaker are subject to discipline at the discretion of the commissioner's office. Other leagues have similar rules.
- Baseball placed Padres infielder/outfielder Tucupita Marcano on the permanently ineligible list for violating the league’s sports betting rules and policies. Four other players received one-year suspensions for other gambling-related violations.
- Athletics right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly received a one-year suspension, as did Minor Leaguers Jay Groome (Padres), José Rodríguez (Phillies) and Andrew Saalfrank (Diamondbacks).
That’s just baseball.
- Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter was banned for life from the NBA in April after a league probe found he disclosed confidential information to sports bettors and wagered on games. He’s accused of betting $80,000 on a Raptors game. His wager was about his own playing time in that game, and he claimed to be ill and only played for three minutes.
- Indianapolis Colts Isaiah Rodgers, Rashod Berry, and free agent defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor were all given indefinite suspensions as part of an NFL investigation into gambling .
- And now, the inevitable news is out that MLB umpire Pat Hoberg is being disciplined for violating league gambling rules.
We don’t know what he’s accused of doing, but we do know that baseball has been investigating him since spring training and he has not been allowed to work any games in 2024.
The cobra that is sports gambling has been released from its wicker basket, it’s biting, and there’s no way to stop it or put it back.
It’s too late for that.
Can we ever watch a game where a pitcher can’t throw a strike without wondering?
Can we ever see an umpire call a pitch that’s right down the middle a “ball” and not think about it.
Can we ever see a player on any team in any sport, in college or the pros, play in a way that’s out of character and not at least be suspicious?
We can’t.
We can only believe that the leagues and teams don’t care much because the cash is too good. Every team, it seems, has some sort of gambling kiosk on their stadium grounds or is partnering with a gambling website.
That cobra won’t stop striking…until it’s victim dies.

I am not a man to brag, nor am I one to scream to the world “I told you so.”
But I warned you all when sports gambling became an acceptable part of society it would change sports in a way that would not be better.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening.
Indiana was one of the early states to adopt new laws to allow sports gambling. Those new laws took effect on September 1, 2019—a year after the US Supreme Court struck down sports gambling laws in most states that we’d been living under since 1992.
It took that year to organize it all—the mechanics of how to play, how the revenue would be recorded, how the tax money generated would be used by the state…all of it.
But they got it together just in time for the NFL season in 2019.
I have already spent enough time warning about the moral issues with gambling. I don’t need to tell you about how Americans spent $10.5 billion on sports betting last year, which was 25-percent more than the year before.
We’re way past that.
The other part of my warning was that the legitimacy of the sports we are watching would eventually be compromised by participants betting on their own sporting events and others.
I offer as evidence:
- Dodger star Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Misuhara pled guilty to bank and tax fraud charges that carries a maximum sentence of 33 years.
He’s admitted to taking the Japanese star’s money—to the tune of $17 million of his money—to feed his own gambling addiction.
An internal baseball investigation determined that Ohtani didn’t know what his right-hand man was doing, and he was allowed to keep playing.
But can we prove he didn’t know? Doesn’t baseball have a lot to gain by him being on the field? Wouldn’t protecting their most popular player benefit them financially and in many other ways?
Wouldn’t MLB getting caught in a gambling cover up be a monstrous disaster?
- Atlanta Braves infielder David Fletcher bet on sports with the same bookmaker who took bets from Mizuhara, according to a report from ESPN's Tisha Thompson last month.
Thompson also reported that Fletcher allegedly bet on multiple sports but didn't place any wagers on baseball.
She also reported that Colby Schultz, Fletcher's friend and a former farmhand of the Kansas City Royals, allegedly bet on baseball games, including ones involving the Angels.
For the record, Major League Baseball players are permitted to wager on sports other than baseball, so long as they're with a legal bookmaker. Players who make wagers with an illegal bookmaker are subject to discipline at the discretion of the commissioner's office. Other leagues have similar rules.
- Baseball placed Padres infielder/outfielder Tucupita Marcano on the permanently ineligible list for violating the league’s sports betting rules and policies. Four other players received one-year suspensions for other gambling-related violations.
- Athletics right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly received a one-year suspension, as did Minor Leaguers Jay Groome (Padres), José Rodríguez (Phillies) and Andrew Saalfrank (Diamondbacks).
That’s just baseball.
- Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter was banned for life from the NBA in April after a league probe found he disclosed confidential information to sports bettors and wagered on games. He’s accused of betting $80,000 on a Raptors game. His wager was about his own playing time in that game, and he claimed to be ill and only played for three minutes.
- Indianapolis Colts Isaiah Rodgers, Rashod Berry, and free agent defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor were all given indefinite suspensions as part of an NFL investigation into gambling .
- And now, the inevitable news is out that MLB umpire Pat Hoberg is being disciplined for violating league gambling rules.
We don’t know what he’s accused of doing, but we do know that baseball has been investigating him since spring training and he has not been allowed to work any games in 2024.
The cobra that is sports gambling has been released from its wicker basket, it’s biting, and there’s no way to stop it or put it back.
It’s too late for that.
Can we ever watch a game where a pitcher can’t throw a strike without wondering?
Can we ever see an umpire call a pitch that’s right down the middle a “ball” and not think about it.
Can we ever see a player on any team in any sport, in college or the pros, play in a way that’s out of character and not at least be suspicious?
We can’t.
We can only believe that the leagues and teams don’t care much because the cash is too good. Every team, it seems, has some sort of gambling kiosk on their stadium grounds or is partnering with a gambling website.
That cobra won’t stop striking…until it’s victim dies.

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