Randy Livingston thinks it’s only a matter of time before a prominent college athlete, perhaps dealing with a gambling addiction of their own, leaks bet-fixing information to a gambling interest and gets caught, causing the biggest NCAA scandal in the post-PASPA era.
He has some inside information of his own he’s willing to share.
One of the top high school basketball recruits in the nation in the early 1990s, Livingston had developed a taste for gambling in the New Orleans neighborhood he grew up in. He used to sneak into a casino near LSU in his college years, though he was underage. He sought treatment for gambling addiction after the conclusion of his 11-year NBA career, which was filled with high-stakes card games on team charters.
He remembers fellow LSU students, whom he assumed were gambling on games, asking him for inside information on injuries and other team developments. It’s not much of a leap to imagine one of those students having ties to someone laying down a major wager and perhaps asking for a little bit more than just information.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before something happens,” Livingston said. “I just think getting out front of this big, big problem is going to be key in the future. Just knowing that when something happens or a crisis does happen, we have the wherewithal to handle it and to be sure we get the players help. It’s just a matter of time. It’s all over the place.”
Gambling common among college players
During a player protection symposium at the SBC North America Summit in Manhattan Tuesday afternoon, Livingston and former Knicks and Bulls stalwart Charles Oakley gave detailed accounts of the heavy propensity for gambling among star basketball players. Both think the proliferation of legal mobile sports betting along with the ability of regulated sportsbooks to detect insider betting could lead to trouble in the coming years.
“Some of them know, ‘I can’t go here, but I can go online, I can sign up for this, I can sign up for that,’“ Oakley said. “You’re teaching someone something they shouldn’t know at an early age. AAU teams are going out of the country, they’re doing this and that. These kids ain’t ready for that.”
Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley has received a suspension from the NFL for betting on that league’s games last season through Hard Rock’s mobile sportsbook then operating in Florida, when reportedly he did not register an account under his own name and a geolocation violation showed up. Theoretically, something similar could happen to a college athlete, the difference being the NCAA does not allow its athletes to wager on any sporting events, regardless of whether they participate in that sport.
Oakley has teamed up with Newport Beach-based entrepreneur Bo Grey to form a company called MyWagerScore. It seeks to partner with sportsbook operators to create something akin to a credit score for bettors based on their financial data, meaning the customer would need to opt in and provide that information. The startup’s first partnership with an operator is with BetMGM. It’s also had interest from the military, because its members can lose security clearance if they place a wager.
NIL money could fuel more gambling
Starting around the Super Bowl, Grey and Oakey toured Big Ten campuses and met with student-athletes. Grey said many of them were beginning to show interest in gambling and didn’t feel the online sportsbooks made the hazards of indulging transparent enough. With the influx of NIL deals, the highest-profile NCAA athletes could have more expendable income to use for gambling.
“Now, you’ve got this NIL money, you’ve got gambling ads all over being thrown at you, you’ve got a tendency to gamble. Chances are, if you’re an athlete, you’re probably already gambling,” Grey said. “We know that. We know that gambling starts in high school for a lot of people, but for most people it is in college. Whether it’s a bookie on campus, an offshore site you can bet at at 18, you’re gambling.”
In the case of NCAA athletes looking to gamble in the shadows, the dawn of legal, regulated sports betting has brought new challenges.