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The Global Sports Betting Pandemic.

Sports betting has a dark side spreading through America like a virus. The recent accusations against Jontay Porter of the Toronto Raptors have revealed the toxicity sports betting has caused today. Suspicions about Porter began on January 26th in a match-up against the Los Angeles Clippers when excessive bets on Porter under props came in. 


The under props on Porter making no 3-point shots was the most significant prop that evening across multiple sportsbooks. Gamblers bet from $10,000 to $20,000 for him not to make 3-pointers, while the usual betting limit is $1,000 to $2,000. 


 Porter only played four minutes and left the game. The medical staff said he aggravated an eye injury that occurred four days prior versus the Memphis Grizzlies. Therefore, all the unders were successful, resulting in a massive payout for betters.


Allegedly, Porter was one of the beneficiaries of the bets. On March 20th versus the Sacramento Kings, he was obviously not giving his best effort because of another alleged betting scheme. After a DraftKings sportsbook operator detected more betting irregularities on Porter unders, they contacted the authorities. 


 In 2021, Porter conducted a seminar about day trading, indicating his interest in multiple forms of income. He also had a discord chat where he would give financial advice, and there are speculations that some of his discord members could’ve been placing bets on him for a mutual benefit.


The investigation is still ongoing, but the allegations against Porter are dire. Risking the opportunity to make millions of dollars in contract signings for an extra five-figure payment is absolutely absurd, considering the risk. He was on a two-way contract but could have worked hard to impress the front office to earn a long-term deal with more money. 


Most athletes are extremely lucky to make it to the professional level, but now they are literally gambling away their opportunities. Newcastle United midfielder Sandro Tonali was banned for ten months because he was betting on games in Italy. The 23-year-old signed a deal with AC Milan worth €70 million ($76.28m) before being traded to Newcastle but still wants to gamble for money after signing for almost €100 million.


 The addition of legal sports betting has also led to opportunities for lucrative crime operations. Just recently, in Major League Baseball, L.A. Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani was a victim of Japanese interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, who served Ohtani for six years of his professional career. On March 20th, Ohtani’s representatives exposed Mizuhara for transferring $4.5 million (680 million yen) to bank accounts associated with illegal bookmaker Matthew Bowyer. Mizuhara owed Bowyer a massive debt after betting on numerous sports and losing. On March 19th, He admitted to the Dodgers players that he had a strong gambling addiction in a team meeting after defeating the San Diego Padres


Greed overcame him, and his deceitful actions ruined a fantastic opportunity to serve one of the world's most famous athletes. While serving Ohtani, he became a fan favorite, and during the 2023 home opener, fans gave him an ovation during team introductions. Mizuhara’s exposure occurred one week before the Porter situation, and both cases have displayed the danger sports betting has created in different leagues. 

 

Premier leagues like the NFL, NBA, NHL, UFC, and MLB have partnered with sportsbooks. Fans are shown commercials sponsoring their official sportsbook, encouraging them to bet. Sportsbooks such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and Prize Picks have skyrocketed in popularity during the last five years. Failed bets have created a volatile relationship between gamblers and athletes. 


Clippers forward P.J. Tucker expressed his annoyance with fans who have spewed vitriol and negative remarks from their seats due to the recent spike in sports betting. 


“It’s getting outrageous, it’s getting kinda crazy,” Tucker said. “Even in the arenas, hearing fans yelling at guys about their bets—it’s unreal. It’s a problem. I think it’s something that's got to be addressed.” 


Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum reiterated a sentiment similar to Tucker's. He says social media remarks about fans' bets make him feel guilty if they lose money because of his bad performance. 


“You see people on Twitter, you know, fans going back and forth with players on Twitter about how you lost their money,” Tatum said. “I guess it’s kind of funny. I don’t know. I guess I do feel bad when I don’t hit people’s parlays. I don’t want them to lose money. But, you know, I just go out there and try to play the game.”


Players deal with enough pressure trying to satisfy their front office while performing on the world stage and maintaining a certain talent level for a new contract. It’s highly detrimental to an athlete’s mental state to add on the thought of someone betting their hard-earned money on your performance, which can be outstanding or terrible on any given night. It will only worsen as the postseason arrives and the stakes rise with massive underdogs playing huge favorites.


Depending on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision, the public will know how the league feels about the embarrassing situation. The best course of action is to make an example out of Porter. It is the only way to deter other players from conducting similar behavior. Either a significant long-term suspension or a potential ban will suffice and catch the attention of the rest of the league. If it’s a light punishment, they will not fear the consequences. 


Even though sports betting has caused athletes of all sports a negative experience, it will not end anytime soon, especially in the NBA, if they move forward with their Las Vegas expansion. If the leagues ban betting, it will cause a massive drop in viewership, resulting in less money as most people in 2024 watch sports to place bets, and sports leagues prioritize financial income over everything else. 



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