Home Scandal and Gossip The Most Notorious Sports Betting Scandals of All Time

The Most Notorious Sports Betting Scandals of All Time

sports betting scandals
Sports betting scandals that shocked the gambling space to the core. Pictured, crooked NBA referee, Tim Donaghy.
sports betting scandals
Sports betting scandals that shocked the gambling space to the core. Pictured, crooked NBA referee, Tim Donaghy.

There have been several sports betting scandals, some of which have shocked the gambling space to the core. Here we highlight one of the scandals that may stand as the most notorious.

As different jurisdictions allow sports betting in their territories, questions have been posed regarding the risks of corrupt activities such as game fixing and transparency in awarding big prizes. Two schools of thought have arisen.

On one side we have those who argue that more money will be wagered than before when the space is opened and with it, there will be more temptations as well as avenues for corruption and attempts to influence sports activities outcomes. On the other hand, some see increased monitoring and vigilance among wagers. This will lead to reduced corrupt deals and openness in the sports betting space.

According to experts, this is what the wagers in betting sites Switzerland are offering, increased monitoring and vigilance. With such, Swiss betting sites stand out in terms of transparency and fairness. Incidences in other places have led to this development. We have had several cases of sports betting scandals. In this article, we will highlight the most notorious sports betting scandals of all time.

There have been several sports betting scandals. The 1870s Louisville Grays of the National League is one such recorded incidence where athletes took money to influence the outcome of a game. Others include:

  • The 1910 Chalmers award
  • British match-fixing scandal in 1964
  • Boston College point-shaving scandal
  • 2002 Breeder’s cup scandal
  • 2004 Rugby betting scandal;
  • 2012 Italian match-fixing 
  • 2018 Cricket betting scandal, among others.

Tim Donaghy 

There have been many others, but one that made the biggest headlines was the one involving the NBA referee between 2005-7. Tim Donaghy was found to be betting in games that he was officiating. To most people especially those who are into basketball betting, this is one of the worst things that you can do in the gambling sector. Players, bettors, and even the general public condemned this act as it was outright theft. 

A referee is an important person in a match. He or she plays a big role in the outcome of a match. Betting on any game, especially on those he or she is officiating is not just a conflict of interest but also a great indictment of the referee’s character. Those who commented on the incident concluded that this referee was not supposed to officiate any match and was supposed to be banned for life.

Tim Donaghy was described as the worst fear for any sports gambler. He almost destroyed the whole industry as punters would find it hard to wager as they feared that every other NBA match will be influenced. NBA was also in jeopardy, how could fans trust any of the referees if one of them had the guts of betting on a match that they are officiating? “There could be worst that is happening under our noses,” wondered the majority of the fans and players. NBA survived the sports scandal but the integrity of the game was greatly injured.


An investigation that was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) found that Tim Donaghy was involved in betting and to make the matters worse in games that he was officiating. This investigation, according to the commentators revealed a lot about NBA. It implied that the basketball association openly encouraged its referees to call the games. A team would just arrange with the referees to call a match in a certain way. This was a clear indication that most of the matches that had been played during that period were likely to have been influenced in favor of given teams.

Notable match

The game between the LA Lakers and Sacramento Kings in Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals has been quoted in several quarters as the most notable example of match-fixing. Although the kings had led the Lakers in the series 3-2, they lost the game by 106-103, this was after the LA Lakers went to the line forty times. In the game Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant hit 24 out of the 28 free–throw trials.

The outcome of the scandal

Investigations revealed that Donaghy had placed ten thousand dollars on games between the 2005 and 2007 seasons. He had also been approached by mob associates to enter into a gambling scheme. The referee was using his position to provide classified information where he received a specified amount for every accurate call. His calls were so accurate that the amount given was increased to $ 5000. 

The amount that the referee received to pass the classified information was estimated to be in tune of $ 300,000. Donaghy was found guilty by a court of law and was fined $500,000. He was also ordered to pay restitution of at least $ 30,000. NBA also demanded that he reimburse the league for the expenses of meals, tickets, and airfare. Out of these actions he was forced to resign, ending his career as an NBA referee. Donaghy had been in the realm of the NBA for 12 years.

Other outcomes included:

  • Finding that ban on gambling was punitive to the referee
  • The ban on gambling was not well enforced for several years
  • Revision of gambling rules where referees were allowed to engage in some forms but not in sports
  • Referees were to receive more training and psychological counseling on gambling
  • Background checks were to be conducted on referees
  • Interactions between NBA and referees were improved, it became easier and more formal

Donaghy incident as well as the other betting scandals are an onslaught on sports betting in general. The scandals have brought out the evils that happen behind the scene. They have almost ruined the fun and thrill that characterize the sports betting field. However, as in the case of Donaghy, they at times have led to positive developments where scrutiny was increased to prevent future scandals.