9 Gambling Scandals

by Aaron Brooks
on May 7, 2017

Scandals have occurred in just about every industry and the gambling industry has had its fair share as well. Most of these scandals have originated in the sports betting arena but other parts of the gambling industry have had scandals as well.

Some of the scandals that have been linked to gambling were influenced by organized crime while others originated from pure greed. Regardless of the reason that the scandals happened, all those involved knew that they were committing a crime.

Let’s look at some of the most notable scandals that have been linked to the gambling industry.

1 – Chicago White Sox or Black Sox Scandal

In 1919, the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds had made it to the World Series. During this time baseball players didn’t have what the players of today have.

They weren’t paid well and there wasn’t any type of player association available to help them negotiate for better pay. Basically, in these days the owners called all the shots and some of the players on the White Sox had grown tired of their owner Charles Comiskey.

The scandal included eight players from the White Sox team. The story goes that the team had been divided up into two groups; the Clean Sox that wouldn’t throw a game and the Black Sox that would. In September of 1919 the Black Sox all met in a hotel room to discuss how they would throw the game. So, they came up with a way to lose the games and the Reds won the series.

When the scandal came to light Lefty Williams said the reason he threw so badly in a game was because he was threatened with his life by a member of the mob. The other seven players along with Williams were all charged but later acquitted in a court of law because the evidence that had been collected went missing from the courthouse.

Even though they were all acquitted of the charges they were all banned from baseball for life. This was hard on all of them but Shoeless Joe Jackson was the one who lost the most. He had up until this point the best batting average in the league and even now his is the third best in history but because of his inclusion in this scandal he can’t be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

2 – Black Friday

Black Friday is the day that online gambling took the biggest hit ever from the United States government. On April 11, 2011, the Department of Justice released indictments against three of the largest online casinos sites charging them with operating illegal gambling businesses and violations to the UIGEA.

The sites that were indicted were Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and Poker Stars. Along with these sites, there were eleven other defendants named as part of the charges being brought. Those that had funds with the companies named were to be given refunds of their money in their accounts. The only company that could do this was PokerStars.

PokerStars eventually settled their case with the Department of Justice for 731 million dollars. With this settlement, they were given all of the assets that Full Tilt had and they agreed to repay Full Tilt’s players as well. For those players that were American citizens they had to request their money back from the Department of Justice which took a great deal of time.

The other two sites didn’t have the ability to withstand this scandal and went out of business shortly after Black Friday landed.

3 – Tim Donaghy

Referees are supposed to be there to make sure a game is played fair and clean, but in the case of Tim Donaghy, that wasn’t always the case. In 2007, it was announced that he was being investigated by the FBI for betting on the games that he was the referee for.

The whole league was in an uproar, and Donaghy had gone into hiding as soon as the news broke. The media was everywhere and he wanted to stay free as long as possible. He finally emerged from hiding after a month and confessed to using special words to tip off if a player was injured and received a total of $30,000 to do so. He also said that several of the NBA playoff games had been improperly refereed as well. No single game was mentioned but fans have picked a couple that they are sure were fixed.

He was charged with two felonies for conspiracy and sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years of parole upon release. He has said that he knows what he did was wrong and that he has disgraced his family with his actions.

4 – Full Tilt Poker

Full Tilt Poker was the brain child of five professional poker players. This online poker card room was launched in 2004 and was a site where poker fans could come and play the games they loved in both cash games and tournaments.

The site offered all the popular variations such as Texas holdem, Omaha in both limit and no limit form, along with the limit versions of Razz, Stud, Draw Poker, and a variation of mixed games. The stakes on the site ranged from as little as .01 blinds to as much as $1,000 blinds for the regular games and as much as $4,000 for the big limit games.

In 2010, Full Tilt introduced a new version of poker that would allow the player to play more hands per hour than was ever possible, and they called it Rush Poker. The idea of the game was to build a network of games that would allow for players to be immediately dealt into a new game after they folded at another game.

The site was also popular for its big poker tournaments which were held every three months. Every tournament was hosted by a different professional poker player. The tournaments came in different variations so that there was a tournament for everyone.

In 2011, the site was a part of the Black Friday Scandal but that was not the first time the site had been in trouble. In 2006 one of the supporters of the web site brought a law suit against the site because she didn’t receive her portion of the ownership rights. That was the beginning of the end for the site and after the Black Friday shut down they had lost all those who had supported them in the past because they were deemed untrustworthy.

5 – Ron Harris

Ron Harris was a guy that was computer savvy and had the perfect opportunity to use his computer skills to make him a great deal of money. So that’s exactly what he did. He might have been able to get away with it for a lot longer if he had been a little more selective with who he involved in his scheme.

Ron worked for the Nevada Gaming Board as a maintenance man for the slot machines. His job was to go check all new slot machines before they were placed on the floor to make sure that their EPROM and Keno machine number counters to make sure that they had not been tampered with after leaving the manufactures.

He was also in charge of doing the random checks on machines that had been on casino floors while checking these chips he discovered that they were reprogrammable. So he got to figuring out how he could reprogram the games to hit the jackpots when he wanted them to.

It didn’t take long before he had gotten it to work and was replacing chips in machines that he worked on in casinos all over Nevada. Replacing the chips wasn’t too risky since the ones he was using were the exact same as those that came from the manufactures so they wouldn’t stand out when other employees checked the machine.

His scheme worked until he decided to take it to Atlantic City and asked for Errol McNeal’s help. The idea was for McNeal to go down to the casino, play the game and trigger the jackpot and leave but McNeal was caught because he wasn’t prepared well enough to win that kind of money.

They were both caught and charged and sentenced to prison time. In total Ron had been able to reprogram over 30 slot machines before he was caught.

6 – Pete Rose

Pete Rose is arguably one of the best baseball players of his time. He had an amazing 23-year career that garnered him with many awards like three World Series rings. He was also Rookie of the Year and had 17 appearances on all-star teams. In 1986, he retired from the game and became the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

His time as manger would be short lived though; by 1989 he was in trouble and it was going to end very badly for Pete and all of those who loved him. In 1989, he was brought under investigation for illegal betting on games that included the times that he was playing and during his management days. He strongly denied the charges but agreed to a lifetime ban from the game.

The story is that he would place at least a $10,000 bet a day on 52 games during the 1987 season. He admitted to the allegations in 2004 but made it clear that he did bet but never did he place a bet against his own team.

This scandal hit baseball hard and those that had been Pete Rose fans were devastated. He, like Shoeless Joe Jackson, should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame but due to these missteps they can’t ever be a part of the history in any other form than their scandal.

7 – Ali Tekintamgac

In 2010 the Partouche Poker Tour was tipped off about a complex cheating scheme that had been in operation throughout Europe for the previous few years. When they finished their investigation into the claims they charged Ali Tekintamgac with using spotters while he was at the table.

The scheme was a good idea. If it had been followed through with completely, he wouldn’t have ever gotten caught. Tekintamgac built a team of spotters that would get access to the tables that he was playing at under the illusion they were there to film a documentary or were a member of the press.

These spotters would view the cards of the other players at the table and use hand signals to alert Ali of what they were holding. By the time he reached the final table the gig was up and he was disqualified from the tournament and was brought to task by the professional players Scot Seiver and Daniel Negreanu at the WPT Championship.

No one really knows how long this scheme had gone on and Ali isn’t admitting to anything. Currently he is suing the Partouche Poker Tour and fighting the charges in court.

8 – MIT Card Counting Team

In 1980 Bill Kaplan and J.P. Massar got together to form a team of players that could go to casinos and count cards while playing blackjack to win big. Kaplan was the backer for the team and would remain as such if the team was run as a business.

The team was made up of current and former students of MIT, Harvard Business, and other leading colleges in the nation. The first team was small and only included around four people but over the years it grew and at times had as many as 35 members.

Each candidate had to pass a test to determine if they were suitable for the team before they would be allowed to train. Once they were fully trained they had to go through a whole new test that included playing through eight six deck shoes with few mistakes before they were able to go on a trip to the casinos.

The thing that made this team different from other teams out there is that they combined many different methods and each member that is on the casino floor at the same time has a specific part that is very important. They were known for counting card the most but they also used the team strategy, ace tracking, and advanced shuffle tracking during their time.

The team has been the inspiration for many books, films, and television shows over the years. Since card counting isn’t illegal they were never charged with a crime however most of the members are forced to use disguises to play now because they’re recognized immediately when they enter a casino.

9 – Boston College Scandal

During the 1978 – 79 basketball season the Boston College basketball team was involved in one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history. This scandal involved players and the mob. Rocco and Tony Perla were a part of a betting syndicate and wanted to get the maximum pay out from their operation as possible.

So, they decided to come up with a scheme to make this happen and started recruiting people to help them with their scheme. They found some players on the team that were willing to fix the games. Rick Kuhn was the first to get involved on the point shaving.

It was set up to make sure the team wouldn’t cover the spread for the game so that they would be guaranteed to win the bet. For his efforts, Rick was paid $2,500 for each bet that won on the game. This scheme was very lucrative.

The scheme was uncovered in 1980 when Henry Hill who had joined the scheme at the same time as the players was arrested on drug charges and he spilled his guts. When the scheme was uncovered those involved were charged and received between 10 and 30 years of jail time for their involvement.


Gambling is an industry that involves large amounts of money which is a huge draw for those looking to make a quick buck. Most of the people that find themselves involved in scandals never really thought that they would end up in that kind of situation but greed can make good people do the wrong thing all the time.

These are just some of the most well-known scandals that have taken place in the industry but they’re not the only ones that have taken place. Even to this day there are probably hundreds going on that haven’t been uncovered yet.

Point shaving, card counting, and spotters are just a few ways that can be used to fix a game to ensure you win, but all these ways are not a go idea. If you’re looking to make money gambling your best bet is to just play the game in moderation and make sure you study the game and find the best legal strategy for you.

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