Professional Athletes Who Jeopardised Their Careers Due to Gambling

professional athletes gambling image
Mayweather-McGregor. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Celebrities are notorious when it comes to gambling, and this is true for professional athletes, too, many of whom have jeopardised their careers due to their ongoing penchant for wagering.  

Big celebrity names and casinos go hand in hand.  We don’t have to look further than the likes of superstars such as Toby Maguire, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to understand how gambling can quickly spiral out of control. 

Some sports icons, too, are known to have had unpleasant encounters at casinos, resulting in reputational damage, broken friendships and relationships, failed investments and complete halting of their careers. 

Here are some of the biggest sporting names that have put their head on the chopping block because of their compulsive gambling habits:

Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather is worth is a massive US$560 million, so it’s not surprising that a five-figure wager to him is petty cash. One of his most memorable gambling moments was when he wagered on the Super Bowl XLVIII that collectively totalled US$13 million.

Apparently, he bet on the Broncos to triumph over the Seahawks, with the Broncos ending up with a cataclysmic defeat of 43-8. Since 2017, following his last known public match, which he lost against Conor McGregor, Mayweather is said to have blown over US$50 million with gambling.

Many speculate that the sole reason why he resurfaced from retirement was to recover some of his losses. Irrespective of this, Mayweather still has half a billion dollars at his disposal to see him through life!

Wayne Rooney

England’s former national team captain, Wayne Rooney, has publicly spoken about his struggles with gambling. As early as 17 and off to a flying career start, the star had already accumulated over £700,000 in football bets. Two years later, he is alleged to have lost £65,000 in a Manchester casino in under 2 hours. By the time he reached 25, Rooney had lost approximately £1 million to races, casinos, and sportsbooks.

Like many other soccer players from England who’ve had gambling issues in the past, Rooney’s staggering losses made headlines and nearly ended his promising career before it even really started. Thankfully, he managed to kick the habit, repay his debts, and go back to the pitch. Rooney now advocates on behalf of several gambling awareness campaigns and organisations around the UK.  

Michael Jordan

One of the most respected and down-to-earth basketball players of all time had serious issues with gambling during the 90s. It’s said that Michael Jordan piled up millions in casino losses and golf bets between 1991 and 1993, with one creditor claiming that he owed him over US$1,25 million. He is said to have been gambling in North Carolina when his dues began to accumulate, a state where gambling was completely illegal at the time.

Even though Jordan was initially never charged, news spread of the NBA star’s out-of-character confrontations with casinos and run-ins with the authorities in the years that followed. Ultimately, following NBA’s own investigation, Jordan withdrew from professional sports in 1993. Today, many conspiracy theorists believe that his gambling addiction was the cause of his untimely professional career decline. 

John Daly

Another devotee of casinos and games of luck is PGA Championship winner John Daly. The US golfer is generally notorious for his indulgent lifestyle, although gambling is one gratification that he has taken too far over the years. Daly’s most cringeworthy moment occurred on the day he lost a tourney to Tiger Woods in 2006.

Even though he was given a generous US$600,000 for his efforts, rather than gracefully journeying back home, he decided to make a pitstop in Las Vegas. There, Daly chose a US$5,000 slot machine at the Wynn Casino, which led to a loss of US$1,65 million by the time he left.  Fortunately, he now has his priorities aligned and runs a popular clothing brand, a cocktail bar, and a pizzeria.

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