Facts About Sports Betting in State Prisons

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Prison Gambling. Image Credit: Shutterstock

While gambling is generally prohibited in prisons, this doesn’t mean that some forms of wagering, such as sports betting, don’t take place.

Gambling is seen as a vice, and gambling misdemeanours are one reason why some inmates get to do time.  Generally, all forms of gambling are strictly prohibited, while games such as poker are allowed, but players cannot play for money.  However, there seems to be a laxer approach by prison personnel when it comes to sports betting. 

If you walk into any US prison, you are likely to spot a room full of inmates with tickets in hand glued to a TV screen, shouting profanities whenever a big game is taking place.  And, often, correctional officers take part in the action, placing their own bets on major leagues and other big tournaments.

Laying Low

Through inmates, we are aware that gambling takes place in prisons; otherwise, it’s something that’s kept under the radar. Convicts who shared their prison gambling experiences depict it as a fun and often lucrative pastime that resembles gambling on the outside. But, like anything else that happens inside the calaboose, gambling can have hairy moments if the wrong bunch of people are involved. 

Even though the authorities tend to ignore what goes on, and some are happy to accept bribes to remain quiet, it’s vital to keep everything on the down-low and not boast that prisoners have placed or won bets.

The Lowdown

Movies like Mean Machine portray gambling in prisons as obscene and merciless. In reality, managing a prison sportsbook is like driving a business. At the end of the day, all inmates look to get by and avoid serving more time because of new crimes. Since money is not allowed in prisons, the choice of currency is postage stamps since they display a fixed value. 

Stamps are used to purchase everything from food to drugs, and they’re also used for sports betting and wagering on casino games. A book of stamps is worth about US$9.80 in most prisons and only depreciates to about US$7 when it reaches the prison yard. 

Setting the Odds

A prison’s “bookie” runs hundreds of books and needs to be very crafty when it comes to hiding these away, along with any spreadsheets used for recording of the wagers. The bookie sets the lines for the outcomes, including over/under lines, straight bets, and parlays. The bookie will then use other inmates, known as runners, to gather all the bets from inmates. 

The runners bring the tickets to the bookie in exchange for a percentage of every losing bet. Using runners also helps the prison bookmakers to avoid any suspicion or unnecessary attention from the guards.  Some bookies even offer free daily bets to encourage prisoners to wager more on the games. Not surprisingly, some guards are known to place a few bets themselves occasionally. 

What is Wagered?

The prison sportsbook usually covers the same betting markets as standard sportsbooks; the events that are wagered on include sports like the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, NFL games and other significant events. The games are usually aired in the prison TV rooms, making it easy for inmates to keep track of the results and stats. Watching events in real-time allows the punters to keep abreast with any complications that result in games being postponed or cancelled. 

One problem that prison bookmakers encounter is accepting several bets on a single favourite. If one player or team receives a lot of attention, this can land the bookie in a difficult position when paying out. To curb this hitch, many bookies request that prisoners bet on at least two other players, teams, or outcomes if they are determined to bet on their favourite. 

How Are Cheaters Dealt With?

Prison may be home to criminals, but cheating while betting is something that isn’t tolerated. If an individual is caught cheating when stakes are out, other inmates will likely take things into their own hands and deal something starker than just a poor hand. 

Ultimately, even though it might be a harsh reality, it makes sense why gambling is banned in prisons.

Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Bojan Lipovic - Digital Project Manager

Besides polishing his SEO skills, Bojan has a penchant for creative writing. With over half a decade of experience in the online gambling industry under his belt, his written take on the latest news from the Canadian and global gambling industries is an indispensable source of information for the CASINOenquirer team. Bojan’s primary goal is to ensure that players get a superior experience through the top-notch content that he shares.

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