Blackmail, Not Just Bribery Can Lead to Pointshaving

The burgeoning betting scandal of former Toledo running back Harvey “Scooter” McDougle Jr. has again brought to the forefront the evergreen discussion and debate of the frequency of game fixing and point shaving.

The answers as to the questions how common it is and by who will probably be forever elusive.  Professor Justin Wolfers, of the respected Wharton School, did a study which concludes point shaving is quite prevalent in college basketball.  We critiqued that study in another article and while we disagree with his conclusions, clearly a man of his credentials cannot easily be discounted.

But in this article we want to bring to light the fallacies in a common presumption. Most seem to assume pointspread chicanery is limited to giving money to an athlete, coach or official in return for altering the betting result of a game.

Some naively believe at the professional sports level this is unlikely to happen, especially with those who affect the outcome of the game the most, the athletes.

The prevailing thought is a high-priced athlete has too much to lose and the amount of payola required would be cost prohibitive to the potential game fixer. That in theory should be true, but one would probably be giving athletes more credit for good judgment than they deserve.

But mere dollars and cents are far from the only type of inducement one could employ for skullduggery.

Talk about burgeoning scandals; is there anyone among us who doesn’t believe the steroid uproar has barely scratched the surface? What if just one influential supplier of performance enhancing drugs were a high-stakes bettor?

He’s got coveted contraband.  He’s got direct communication with significant athletes. You do the math.

Did somebody say scandal? It seems every decade or so we find out about a Madam to the multi-millionaires. Apparently the rich and powerful are willing to bequeath significant funds to acquire the services of a sweet painted lady. What might an amorous athlete being willing to do for the executive concubine service? A friend once told me “dames are trouble”. Are you getting the picture?

Do you think there may be some drug use among professional athletes? What would an athlete who wants only the best and hottest designer drugs do? A little information to crush the sportsbooks perhaps?  This may come as a shock, but I hear not all drug peddlers walk a straight and narrow line.  What kind of favors could the drug trafficker get from a desperate burnout who needs his fix? Did I just say “fix”?

But that’s not even adding blackmail to all of the above. What if a money player had overwhelming incriminating information concerning a player being involved in any of the aforementioned vices? Hush money is not cheap and it may just come in the form of a favor or two rather than in a briefcase of dollar bills.

Yet another bombshell in the news recently was the coming out book of former NBA player John Amaechi.  When the ex-journeymen admitted he was gay, it brought a lot of discussion as to the likelihood of a current athlete coming out of the closest. Current and former players, coaches and coach potatoes alike agreed an active player would risk serious ostrasization and many other ramifications to come out.

What if a gambling extortionist wanted, instead of financial shake down, some in-game kickbacks?

How about the same with a married player with an active black book—a player who wouldn’t want his marriage turned into a public and bitter multi-million dollar divorce settlement?

No, it’s not my “hypothetical confession” of how I would have bribed an athlete “if I did it”. But having been in the business since the 1980s, one does hear things.  Most, perhaps all is mere gossip and hearsay.  However, one thing I can say for certainty to those who believe professional athletes would unlikely be on the take because the risk/return factor is too great. Don’t bet on it.

Joe Duffy, CEO of, has been an expert guest on Sporting News Radio, the Gambler’s Zoo and several other network and internet radio shows.

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