Gambling and sports have an association that runs back centuries. From the earliest organised sporting events, gambling on the outcome has remained a popular way for spectators to get more involved in the action, and to get some more personal skin in the game, whether it be online gambling or in a land based casino.
It’s not surprising then to note that a number of famous and celebrates athletes also happen to enjoy a flutter. From the highs and lows of the gambling rollercoasters, a number of sporting legends are known to be keen gamblers. We’ve put together a list of five of the most famous below.
Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather didn’t earn his nickname from just being unbeatable in the ring. A renowned gambler, Mayweather is known to bet some seriously big positions. He regularly tweets pictures of his betting slips, showing wagers that run into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars. While there have been a number of big money wins to make it onto his social media roll, you can be certain Floyd’s not disclosing every cheeky bet to the world.
His ruthless, competitive edge appears alive and well through Floyd’s betting, and you’ll find him regularly celebrating his bigger wins online.
Golfer John Daly has lived a life. He’s something of a serial addict, suffering from a number of personal afflictions, including alcoholism, gambling addiction and food. Known for being amongst the faster living players on the professional tour, Daly recounts how he’s lost as much as $50-$60 million at casinos over the years. One of his worst ever single sessions came off the back of a tournament second place slot – having missed out on winning the tournament, Daly drove directly to Las Vegas and ploughed through $1.6 million in a little over 5 hours playing slots.
While it would be fair to say John Daly likes a gamble, his story is not exactly a ringing endorsement for the reckless approach some sportsmen take to gambling away their career earnings.
Pro-basketball star Antoine Walker was thought to have made as much as $100 million over his long, successful career playing for the Celtics and the Mavericks amongst others. But what should have been enough to set him and his family up for a lifetime of financial security was to prove too difficult to hold on to – especially given his expensive tastes. Walker was known to throw lavish dinners, spend heavily on custom-made suits, and for financially supporting no fewer than 70 of his friends and family, entirely from his NBA earnings.
This profligacy might have been doable had he not also been heavily involved in gambling. On a trip to Las Vegas, Walker ran up debts of over $822,000 across three different casinos. When it came time to pay the tab, he ran his credit card, only to be declined for insufficient funds. At this point, there was no other option but to call in the cops – Walker was arrested, and later declared bankrupt.
Paul Hornung is perhaps best remembered for the gambling scandal that engulfed his career, as one of the NFLs MVPs back in the early 60s. A member of four World Champion teams, Hornung had a bright career ahead of him, and the chance to cement his name as one of the most famous footballers of his generation.
But that reputation was to be tarnished when Hornung was implicated in a betting scandal, that saw them betting on football games. This resulted in a season-long ban for Hornung, as well as fellow NFL athlete Alex Karras, after they were found to have been betting several hundred dollars each on the NFL and NCAA.
While the numbers involved perhaps weren’t so big, back in the days of less astronomical sports star earnings, the case of Paul Hornung shows some things never change.
Basketball legend Charles Barkley opened up to the world about his gambling problem in an interview with ESPN. He claimed his issues had cost him around $10 million over his career. Yet that interview in 2006 was far from the end of Barkley’s gambling journey, and despite recognising he had issues around gambling and losing heavily, he continued to enjoy the occasional flutter.
In 2007, Barkley was said to have won as much as $700,000 over a single weekend, a combination of Super Bowl betting and high stakes blackjack. However, with known losses like $2.5 million in just a couple of hours on another visit to Vegas, it’s unclear whether these big wins were ever enough to fund his losses.
While acknowledging he has a gambling problem, Barkley said he intends to continue to gamble. Unlike some people, he can ‘afford it’, a somewhat controversial take on gambling as an athlete.
Whether it’s the competitiveness of athletes, or the need for the excitement of a win that keeps them going, these sports stars are all amongst that band of athletes that’s known to enjoy gambling. With every new year of professional sports intake, you can bet a fair percentage will continue in this long tradition.