Foul Ball: Gambling Scandals that Rocked the Sporting World

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We all see the frequent scandals that come put every once in a while involving big banks, mega-corporations, or government institutions with a sigh of frustration, but we’re never really all that surprised. When it comes to an industry such as the gambling sector, we would be forgiven for thinking scandals and incidences of unfair play would be all the more abundant due to the somewhat shady origins and reputation of the “sport”, but the surprising truth is that scandals here are less frequent than most imagine.

The highly regulated industry, especially when the stakes are sky-high, doesn’t see that much criminal cheating activity and scandal, but when certain enterprising and clever individuals decide to get their winnings the wrong way, it can make for fascinating reading. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most spectacular scandals to hit the worldwide gambling industry over the past years.

The Chicago White Sox

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Baseball in America back in 1919 was an entirely different sport than what it is today. Not in terms of the rules and gameplay, but with regard to how the players were treated and paid. Club owners basically called all the shots, and there were no unions or organizations around to help league players negotiate for better terms.

Well, in 1919, the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox had booked their places in the World Series, but trouble was brewing in a White Sox team that had had enough of team owner Charles Comiskey’s dictatorial ways. As the story goes, the team had split into two camps, the Clean Sox squad that would not agree to throw any game in the series and a so-called Black Sox that was willing to stick it to the club owner by losing intentionally. The Black Sox managed to come up with a losing strategy that saw them lose the series eventually to the Reds.

When the fiasco came to light eventually, one of the 8 White Sox players implicated, Lefty Williams, stated that his pitching had been so miserable due to receiving death threats from mob-affiliated individuals. Even though charges against the group were eventually dropped (evidence against them went missing from the courts), the group was handed a lifetime ban from the game. Especially hard-hit by this entire quagmire was “Shoeless” Joe Jackson who had the greatest batting average league-wide up to that point (still standing as the third-best in history), which would have seen him inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The scandal meant that he couldn’t be recognized for his incredible performance that season.

Black Friday

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Black Friday is how the gambling industry refers to the day the online gambling fraternity saw one of their biggest misfortunes. On this day, the United States government chose to press charges against online casinos in the U.S.A. including such powerhouses as Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and 12 other defendants in the industry. The charge was the operation of illegal gambling businesses and violations of the rules outlined by the UIGEA.

The ruling in the case saw the sites compelled to refund all those who held accounts with them, out of which only PokerStars was able to comply to the tune of $731 million. The decision is what prompted a major overhaul of operation in American and Canadian online casinos.

The Tim Donaghy Scandal

source: a2.espncdn.com

source: a2.espncdn.com

While referees can generally be relied upon to be the upholders of fair play and strict adherence to the rules of the game, they are capable of going rogue. This is what happened in the case of NBA (National Basketball Association) referee Tim Donaghy. Donaghy was indicted in 2007 on charges of using his position to influence the outcome of games, for which he got $30,000. While no single game, in particular, was brought up in the case, Donaghy, on his reappearance from hiding since the affair came to light, stated that several playoff and regular season games had been affected.

Donaghy eventually came upon two felony conspiracy charges, for which he served 15 months in jail with an additional 3 years of parole after his release. While he acknowledged the wrongness of his actions and regretted the shame he brought upon his family and profession, it must be said that in all such cases it’s the game and the fans that love it that suffer the most.