Playing With Fire – How Betting Scandals Impacted Some Professional Athletes

Sandro Tonali
Sadro Tonali (Source: BTA)

Whether you like it or not, betting and sports go hand in hand, at least in most countries. Some of the world’s biggest sports betting corporations have websites and land-based shops that sponsor various events, players, and teams. While it is true that their impact is positive (for the most part), some professional athletes often get involved in betting scandals that cost them their jobs.

Speaking of scandals, reveals that the most recent one is related to Ippei Mizuhara, the interpreter of Shohei Ohtani, one of the newest players of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was shown that Mizuhara had ties with a bookmaker and accumulated more than $1,000,000 in debt. “Fans were shocked, to say the least. I believe this is just the beginning, and we will learn about new MLB betting scandals in the future”, said Veselin from NB.

Unfortunately, the scandal around Mizuhara is just one of the many examples of people who got in trouble for betting. There have been many other examples, and our team has decided to show you the most interesting ones.

gambling scandals infographic

Jack Molinas

Nowadays, most people or teams that are involved in a betting scandal receive a fine or a temporary/permanent ban from the sport. Well, this was not the case in 1961. This was when Jack Molinas had to spend 5 years in prison because he was involved in gambling.

In case you do not know, Jack Molinas is a basketball star who was a part of The Pistons. However, his time in the NBA did not last long because he was involved in a betting scandal. This caused him to leave the league and join the EPBL instead.

When people thought Molinas had learned his lesson, it became clear that he was involved in yet another betting scandal. What’s even more surprising is that the basketball player was in charge of the illegal gambling operations that involved a total of 27 colleges and around 50 players.

During the investigation, it became clear that Jack Molinas knew Vincent Gigante and Joe Hacken, two people who were involved in betting and were part of a famous crime family. This “fueled” the suspicions that Molinas was involved in point-shaving. Eventually, he was sentenced to prison.

Once he got out 5 years after the sentence, he was involved in other illegal activities. Sadly, Molinas died after being shot in 1975.

Peter Rose

There were a lot of betting scandals with people in sports prior to 1989, but this one shocked the world at the time. Similar to the above-mentioned example, the action here takes place in the USA, and it’s related to the MLB.

Following an in-depth investigation made by John Dowd, MLB’s lawyer, it became clear that Pete Rose was involved in illegal betting. According to the information, Rose was involved in betting on the team he was a part of. Between 1985 and 1987, Pete Rose played and managed the Cincinnati Reds, but it seems that he decided to make a little bit of extra money on the side.

Once it became clear that he was involved in such activity, Pete Rose received a lifetime ban. Following the accident, he tried to appeal his ban, but this did not happen.

Rob Howley

Even though not that many people bet on rugby, if you compare the stats to sports like football, it has a lot of fans. It seems like Rob Howley was one of them. He was the captain of the male rugby team of Wales, and everything was going well until 2019 and the Rugby World Cup.

Just a few days before the beginning of the event, it became clear that the assistant coach of the male rugby team of Wales was involved in suspicious betting activities. In fact, he had wagered 363 bets on a wide range of matches. One of them was on Wales’ match versus Ireland.

After it became clear that Howley had made these bets, the regulating authorities decided to suspend the coach from this sport for 18 months.

Sandro Tonali & Others

We can write a separate article about the betting scandals in football because there are a lot of them. Among the latest big controversies that we learned about took place in late 2023, and it involved Sandro Tonali, as well as several other football players.

It was revealed that Sandro Tonali used illegal betting websites to wager on games for the team he was a part of. However, the problems were a lot more complicated than that, and it started before Sando Tonali joined Newcastle.

Sandro Tonali’s gambling involvement became clear after a scandal around another Italian player – Nicolo Fagioli. According to the information, the latter took part in illegal betting activities and had a gambling addiction. Once this information became clear, Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo were questioned by the police, and it became clear that they were also under investigation.

Speaking of the devil, once it became clear that Fagioli was guilty, he was suspended from the sport for 12 months and had to pay around 12,500 EUR in fines. What’s more interesting is that Fagioli said that it was Sandro Tonali who introduced him to illegal betting apps. This caused the authorities to start another investigation.

It became clear that Tonali placed bets on his team, but he wagered they’d win, so there was no match-fixing element. That said, the player did not report that to the authorities, which is why the player received a 10-month ban, as well as 8 months of different rehab activities.

Daniel Sturridge

While talking about football and the different betting scandals, we need to mention Daniel Sturridge. Some of you may not remember, but this used to be one of the most promising strikers several years ago. In 2019, he played for Liverpool, and many people expected him to “carry” his team, but he suffered many injuries.

Aside from that, Daniel Sturridge was also involved in illegal betting activities because, supposedly, he gave inside information about a transfer that took place in 2018. Following the investigation, the player was found guilty, which resulted in a 150K GBP fine and a 4 months ban.

While this happened, the English player was a part of Trabzonspor, a Turkish football club. Once it became clear that he was involved in betting activities, the club decided to cancel his contract.

Ivan Toney

Another English football player who was involved in illegal betting is Ivan Toney. According to the news from a few months ago, Toney wagered on his club and even tried to conceal gambling.

The investigation revealed that the player made numerous bets, and 13 of them were that his club would lose. Furthermore, the player did not help with the ongoing investigation and gave false answers to the authorities.

According to the FA, Toney’s case is one where the gambling rule has been seriously breached. The stats show that this player made a total of 28 bets. The player wagered 15 bets on himself to score a goal and also wagered that his club would win.

After the investigation, Ivan Toney received an 8-month ban. What’s interesting is that the investigation did not reveal Tony had a gambling problem. This was, however, changed after further investigation, and the player was diagnosed with addiction. This was also why he received an 8-month ban instead of 11 months.

Kieran Trippier

The last betting scandal we want to include here relates to football. This time, we want to talk about Kieran Trippier, the player who used to be a part of Tottenham Hotspur.

As you probably remember, Tottenham’s star was supposed to join Atletico Madrid in 2019. A few days before the transfer, he gave information about it to friends, and the latter decided to take advantage. Sadly, the media learned about it, which resulted in an investigation from the FA.

To make a long story short, the FA found Trippier guilty and banned him from playing for 10 weeks. Besides that, he received a 70,000 GBP fine. After spending more than 3 years with Atletico Madrid, the player returned to the English Premier League. Today, he is a part of Newcastle United.

My Verdict

There are tons of other cases of players, staff, coaches, and other personnel who were involved in suspicious gambling activities. However, we wanted to make the article as compact as possible, so we only included the more interesting cases.

Betting in sports is fun, and many people do it, but if you are a professional athlete, you must abide by the rules set by the regulating body in your country. It goes without saying, but betting against your team or betting on yourself is illegal. Despite that, many professional athletes do that, especially from the lower echelons.

There are many reasons why this is the case, and one of them is the payment. These people do not get that much money, so they are looking for alternative ways of “funding”.

Kristiyan Kyulyunkov
Kristiyan KyulyunkovKristiyan Kyulyunkov specializes in bookmakers’ analyses. He has years of experience betting online and always keeps an eye on the different operators. His tasks in Nostrabet include writing, editing and publishing expert reviews.

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