Professional athletes of major sports have two things in abundance: money and free time. When you mix those two, the result that you get sometimes can be ugly. Many athletes don’t use their money to buy the occasional new Bentley or the resort in the seaside but they find appealing to gamble them. The loophole in which they fall is that they think that just because they have the fortune to sustain high bets, it is acceptable to lose thousands and sometimes millions of dollars. But, for some of them, the loophole becomes dooming. They start to indulge in this passion so much that their performance and social life are affected. Some cases like Michael Jordan manage to control the addiction while others get sucked so much into it that they end up broke, ashamed or even worse, to prison.
1. Michael Jordan
Undeniably MJ is the best basketball player ever set foot on this planet. An elite athlete but still a human and like everyone else, he has his flaws. At his tenure with the Chicago Bulls, there were many times that he was spotted gambling in casinos, especially in Atlantic City, which he loved. There is a notorious story about Jordan gambling there until late night before a crucial Playoff match against the New York Knicks in 1993. Jordan was that good that he still was the protagonist for his team the next day, even without much sleep. Other stories regard the famous golf games that he organized inviting rich businessmen with the stakes sometimes reaching 1 million dollars. Jordan was so addicted that he was gambling on the most absurd things like games with rock, paper, scissors with his teammates. In the 1992 Olympic Games, Team USA was practically doing two things: destroy any opponent by 40 or more points and playing non-stop poker in their hotel. Of course, Jordan was leading the bets along with another gambling addict that we are going to talk later, Charles Barkley. The gambling problem of MJ received such publicity that until today there is this conspiracy theory about his “sabbatical” at the baseball league. In 1993 Jordan decided to retire from basketball in order to pursue a career in baseball, which was his father’s dream. Rumors say that the real reason behind this premature retirement, was the NBA commissioner at the time, David Stern, who didn’t want to punish publicly Michael Jordan for his gambling activities.
2. Wayne Rooney
It isn’t a federal secret in England that Wayne Rooney enjoys gambling. The problem though with the former Manchester United player is that he never knows when to stop. Reportedly in 2017, he had lost 500,000 pounds in just one night by playing roulette at a Manchester casino.
Of course, this wasn’t the only large sum he had to forfeit during his punting “career”. The English footballer always preferred brick-and-mortar casinos instead of online gambling so a lot of times fans and the Press caught him red-handed. Gambling addiction started early for Rooney, in his teenage years, when he was already a star at Everton and was earning more than any 17-year-old could ever dream. His dark passion never abandoned him and he continued to play without controlling his losses even when his addiction caused him serious marital problems. His wife Coleen once found out about a loss of 50,000 pounds and she became furious with Wayne. They are still together, fighting to overcome his addiction that by the years has come under control. The problem is that Rooney keeps fueling the Press with incidents. For example, his recent signing with a personal sponsor named 32-Red which is a …gambling brand. Rooney decided to wear number “32” while playing for Derby County and the British tabloids roasted him with titles like “Rooney sold his soul to gambling”. He has a long way to go in order to fix his public image.
3. John Daly
Possibly the athlete that has lost the most money on excessive gambling is the pro golfer, John Daly. The American golfer has admitted that he has accumulated approximately 55 million dollars in gamble losses! One of the most recognizable figures of the PGA Tour, John Daly is an explosive personality off the golf pitch and he has dealt with alcoholism, gambling addiction, overweight and marital problems for most of his career. Once he threw $65,000 in gambling earnings off a bridge and into a river after a big fight that he had about his addiction with his fourth wife, Sherrie. Another story that reached legendary status happened in 2005. After winning a tournament prize of $750,000, he directly drove to Las Vegas in order to gamble the money and ended up losing more than double in just 5 hours! “If I don’t get control of my gambling, it’s going to flat-out ruin me,” Daly has admitted in his autobiography. He now plays only at $25 slot machines with a “walkout limit loss” and he has reportedly abstained from being a high roller. As for having any regrets about losing a major part of his fortune on gambling, Daly doesn’t seem bothered: “Man, I had a great time”, he has said in an interview.
4. Art Schlichter
Art Schlichter is arguably the worst case of gambling addiction in the history of sports. How bad his gambling problem was? Well, let’s say that it eventually led him behind the bars of the prison. Schlichter was a generation talent during his college years with the Ohio State Buckeyes as a quarterback. By the time he graduated, he was the all-time offensive leader in the history of his school. But along with the sports feats he accomplished his years as a student-athlete, came the gambling addiction. Before he was even drafted by Indianapolis Colts in the 1982 NFL draft, Schlichter was already betting heavily on racetracks and college sports. Starting his pro career, he quickly lost his place in the team and combining with the 1982 NFL players’ strike, he was dragged in the pit of gambling addiction for good. By the time the strike had concluded, he had already lost $700,000! Schlichter was the definition of the “pathological gambler”. His self-control was long gone and he was doomed to financial collapse. In 1983 he was unable to repay a $489,000 bet and the bookies threatened to expose him to the NFL League. Schlichter was terrified and immediately reported the blackmailing to the FBI. Despite his right response to report the incident, the damage at his public image has been done and NFL banned him for the remainder of the season. He played for one more year and then his team released him as his addiction was getting totally out of control. He never returned to the league and his problem became that ugly that he lost all of his fortune to excessive gambling, and trust us when we say ALL. He continued gambling with borrowed money with the belief that he could repay his debtors. Eventually, he couldn’t fund his bets so he turned to criminal activities. In 2011 he pleaded guilty to theft and corrupt activity and he was sentenced to 10 years of prison. NFL never reinstated him and until today he remains a “black sheep” for the league.
5. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is known to the youngsters as an amusing NBA analyst of the “Inside the NBA’ TV Show but he used to be one of the most dominant basketball players of his time. Being really versatile, a prolific rebounder and a decent scorer, Barkley made everything in the NBA except for winning a championship ring. Another thing that remained stable throughout his career apart from his great performance, was, unfortunately, his gambling addiction. Barkley was occasionally gambling significant amounts of money on poker games, a lot of times alongside his friend, Michael Jordan. After his retirement in 1997, the problem worsened as he admitted that he couldn’t find anything else to replace his passion for basketball. In 2006 “Chuck” admitted that he had lost more than 10 million dollars earnings on gambling. In 2008 after he was accused by Wynn casino in Las Vegas of owing $400,000, he finally decided to face his demons. Barkley vowed publicly that he will stop gambling for life but it’s uncertain if he indeed followed through on that promise.