Gambling on sports is an illegal activity in 46 states including Utah but bribing athletes is illegal in all 50. Utah Code 76-6-514 states that it is a 3rd degree felony for a person to influence, bribe, or threaten a participant to intentionally not perform properly in their “publicly exhibited contest”.
Photo by: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar
Increasing your chances for winning, illegally
Knowing the sport and being educated in the stats of each player can help increase a gambler’s odds when placing a bet, but their chances of winning are still slim. More money is lost than gained in sports gambling, otherwise it wouldn’t be such a profitable business for bookies. When knowledge and luck don’t pan out for bettors and they’re left with gambling debt, some may turn toward influencing or bribing athletes.
Rigging a match to lose
According to Collins English Dictionary; “arranging the outcome of a sports match prior to its being played” is known as match fixing. It’s easier to ensure a loss of points or a whole game than to guarantee a win. This is why players are bribed with a hefty payout to throw a game or not do their best while the gamblers knowingly put their money on the opposite team. All athletic events are vulnerable to this illegal activity. Horse racing, cricket, snooker, and basketball tend to be the sports that see match fixing more often. This is because only one jockey or one player, not the entire team, is needed to rig the outcome in favor of the gambler.
Betting on sports doesn’t always involve selecting a winning team. Bookkeepers don’t want all the bets placed on one team or the other. This leaves bookies with a 50/50 chance of losing, so they started what’s known as the point spread. The point spread allows bettors to bet that their team will win by a certain number of points. As long as their team wins by that chosen number or more they win. If they win but it is by less than the chosen number, the bettor loses. With point shaving, which team wins or loses won’t be changed. Instead the athlete or sometimes an official who has been bribed will make sure that the team doesn’t win within a certain point spread that is expected by the majority. This leaves the briber opportunity to bet on the opposing team to lose by fewer points.
Motives for athletes
Besides money, there are other reasons why players will purposely throw or tank a match or a game. Not winning a game during certain times in the season can benefit a team’s standings in playoffs. Losing these specific games can also give teams a better schedule for the following year and allow them a better pick of new players as well. Sometimes, who wins doesn’t matter to either side so teams will agree to tie.
Famous Bribery Scandals
Match fixing is a world-wide problem and there are a couple well-known stories that took place in the United States. In 1919, the White Sox threw the World Series (Black Sox Scandal) and although they were not found guilty, those suspected players were never again allowed to play baseball in the major leagues. More recently in 2007, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sentenced to over a year in prison for working with the mob, giving them tips on games he was the officiator for. These individuals, and any others who have been caught match fixing have blemished their names forever in the history of sports.
Not worth the bet
Whatever the reason, the ramifications of losing games or points on purpose is against the rules and players risk being suspended, having their reputations tarnished, or worse; being banned from every playing the game again. The players along with influencing gamblers also risk felony charges if there is money exchanged for bribes. For athletes who have found themselves caught up in a match fixing scene or for gamblers who took things a little too far by bribing athletes, an experienced criminal defense attorney should be hired to advocate on their behalf.