5 Sports Stars Who Lost Big While Gambling

Floyd Mayweather
via Bryan Horowitz / CC-BY-2.0

Thanks to the massive media exposure and millions of fans around the world, playing sports at a professional level falls into the category of the highest paid jobs of the modernity. Top sports players quickly become millionaires at a very young age, often going from very poor to ultra-rich in a matter of several years.

Making millions of dollars on a yearly basis at such a young age can be quite challenging, as many athletes have experienced over the years. Big pressure and expectations from fans and peers come along with the big money, altogether leading promising sports players to making major mistakes at the dawn of their careers.

Alcohol, drugs, and gambling are dangers that players often fail to avoid. While the majority of addiction incidents happened over drugs and other illegal substances, gambling has also taken its fair share of young players and experienced superstars to financial ruin.

Whether it is sports betting, paying visits to Las Vegas or even gambling online, the consequences of gambling addiction are often catastrophic. Unsurprisingly, the fastest growing category among those is web-based gambling. Thus, online casino sites now present an even greater threat to sports players worldwide, providing a fast and easy way to gamble without any prying eyes.

We’ll take a look at the stories of some of the most popular names in sports who were involved in major gambling incidents during their careers or once they retired from sports.

Michael Jordan (Basketball)

Now retired, Michael Jordan remains one of the all-time greats of the NBA and basketball in general. Despite his massive success in sports, Air Jordan was quite the gambler himself back in the day, and by all accounts remains one even now.

Jordan was a common visitor to Atlantic City, where he played casino games and bet on sports on many occasions. Once he lost over $150.000 at an AC casino back in 1993, while Richard Esquinas claimed that MJ lost over $1.2 Million to him playing golf.

Over his illustrious career, Michael often played golf for big sums of money and gambled in other ways. Despite being a man of action who loves some gamble, Jordan apparently knows how to keep his vice under control as he continues living a lavish lifestyle and his bank accounts appear to be quite healthy.

Wayne Rooney (Soccer)

The ex-Manchester United superstar and one of England’s best goal scorers ever had a fantastic career at the very top of European football. During his time with Manchester United, Rooney helped the team win the Champions League and numerous domestic titles and carved his name into soccer’s list of all-time greats in the process.

Despite his prowess on the pitch, Rooney was always rumored to be a somewhat troubled person, with gambling and infidelity incidents putting a stain on his career. Wayne’s gamble of choice was sports betting. He was known for betting six-figure sums on football matches, horse and dog races and other sports at a very young age.

At the age of 22, Wayne Rooney lost over £65.000 in a Manchester-based casino, which upset his fans. However, Rooney never allowed his gambling issues to affect his play nor did he ever get into too much financial trouble, as his massive weekly wages at United kept him in the black the whole time.

Floyd Mayweather (Boxing)

Floyd Mayweather is one of the highest-earning sportsmen in the world and a boxing superstar. Mayweather made the headlines many times over, perhaps the most for his boxing match with Connor McGregor.

The fight made the boxer millions but this did not deter him from trying to bet as much money as possible on himself. Of course, this was not the first time Floyd made a wager, as he is a well-known sports bettor and blackjack player.

Over the years, Mayweather has posted many massive betting slips on his social media accounts. He even hosted a $300,000 blackjack tournament in the Bahamas at one time. While it is well known that he won six-figure scores on many occasions, it is likely that his losses reach well into the millions, although most of his action remains undisclosed.

Charles Barkley (Basketball)

Often referred to as Chuck or Sir Charles, the Alabama native was one of the top NBA players of his era. After being selected as the fifth pick of the 1984 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, Barkley proceeded to have an illustrious career which unfortunately never resulted in an NBA title.

The 1993 NBA MVP was a superstar on the pitch, but in personal life, he had a great problem of controlling his gambling addiction. In a 2006 interview with ESPN, Barkley admitted to losing over $30,000,000 on gambling during his career, including Super Bowl bets and blackjack sessions at Vegas-based Wynn hotel. Despite such massive losses, Barkley claimed he does not need to quit since he can “afford to gamble”, unlike most people.

Jaromir Jagr (Hockey)

Czech-born Jaromir Jagr is the most productive European player who ever played in the NHL. During his career, he has won the Stanley Cup, Ice Hockey World Championships and the Olympic gold medal, ending up as one of 28 players in the Triple Gold Club.

His incredible career as a hockey player was somewhat clouded by his immense losses at online gambling sites as well as massive debts he incurred toward the IRS that once claimed over $3,000,000 in back taxes from the player.

Jagr accumulated his massive gambling debts at two online casinos over the course of several years but was unable to pay the entire amount at once. Since he hadn’t made any payments for some time, casinos broke the story to the press and made the player eventually pay his debts.

As years go by and sports players continue accumulating greater wealth, the vice of gambling becomes ever more present in their lives. While gambling may not be as harmful to players’ careers as drugs and alcohol in a physical sense, the mental pressure caused by numerous losses has been enough to hurt many careers. Hopefully, the superstars of tomorrow will learn their lessons from their predecessors and avoid falling into the same pitfalls.