5 Athletes Who Blew Their Fortunes Gambling

Jaromir Jagr
via s.yume / CC-BY-SA 2.0

The sporting industry in 2021 was valued at an incredible $354.96 billion. This eye-watering amount shows how much money flows through the plethora of sporting events each year. Much of this money also flows directly into the pockets of the athletes who spend their lives training and attempting to be the best. 

While there is no argument that these superstar players deserve their hefty paychecks, some have problems holding onto their large sums of cash. And sometimes, this is because they put Lady Luck to the test too often. 

These athletes enjoy cash slots at their favorite casino more than most or spend outrageous amounts at the tables. Unfortunately, they don’t always know when enough is enough and tend to lose more than they bargained for. 

Below, we’ll look at five athletes who blew their fortunes gambling and ran into significant financial troubles. While some players mentioned below have turned their gambling problems around, the amount of money they’ve lost will make your mind reel. 

John Daly

John Daly is one of the most well-known American pro golfers. He started his professional career in 1987 and quickly earned the nickname Long John for his ability to hit long shots from the tee. He is most famous for his title of Rookie of the Year in the 1991 PGA Tour and his 2004 title of Comeback Player of the Year, also in the PGA Tour. 

Following multiple stints in rehab for alcohol abuse, John is also known for his incredible gambling splurges. He is said to have previously placed wagers of $1 million on a golf game with Tiger Woods. However, bets like this were only part of his gambling problem. 

In an interview discussing his problems with betting, the golfing legend admitted that he had lost over $40 million while gambling. He also caused a stir when, on a whim, he threw $55,000 out of the window of his car. 

Many fans thought that because he was at one point one of the top 20 highest-paid pro golfers, he could easily afford to splurge money this way. However, the reality was that John couldn’t afford it and eventually went broke—losing everything he had earned as a golfing star. 

Today, after dealing with his uncontrollable urge to bet big, John holds a net worth of around $2 million. Estimates say this amount would be closer to $65 million if it hadn’t been for his losses. 

Jaromir Jagr

Jaromir Jagr is famed for playing for a variety of well-known hockey teams. His team history includes the Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils.

His main accomplishment included earning the second most points in the history of the NHL (National Hockey League). He also became an international player when he played for European teams for four years during the peak of his career. 

Jaromir earned big during his career with the collection of teams he’s played for. However, he also had a rather severe penchant for online gambling. This came as a shock when the news broke, considering online casinos were still relatively new between 1998 and 2002 when he splurged on betting.

During this time, the talented hockey player amassed a gambling debt of a staggering $950,000. This may not sound too bad, but in 2002 it was a massive amount (equivalent to $1.56 million in today’s money). He was further set back when the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) sued him for $3.27 million for unpaid taxes. 

Thankfully, he stopped gambling heavily. Thanks to this, his current net worth is estimated to be between $40 and $50 million. 

Paul Merson

Known as an Arsenal superstar, Paul Merson was one of the higher earners in the soccer scene. Playing for Arsenal between 1985 and 1997, Paul moved to play for the English national team between 1991 and 1998.

While he cashed in big with his career, he also wagered just as much, for he was a regular with many bookkeepers and loved making outrageous bets. He also had a particular fondness for alcohol and drugs.

His gambling grew so bad that he eventually lost around £7 million (approximately $7.73 million) on bad bets. After his losses, he admitted that he even thought about breaking his fingers so he couldn’t make calls to his local bookie. 

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he cashed his pension of £800,000 (around $884,138) to continue betting. He lost everything and ended up flat broke. Thankfully, he then realized his problem and stopped betting so high. Today, he has a net worth of around $2.5 million.  

Pete Rose

Sometimes called Charlie Hustle, Pete Rose is a famous Major League Baseball player. He is credited with winning three World Series titles and multiple other accolades. One that he may not be too proud of, however, is his reputation as a gambler. 

Initially becoming public in 1989, stories about his gambling led to an investigation by the National League. Although he denied the allegations, it was uncovered that he had been betting up to $10,000 per game. 

This caused him to be banned from playing and ended his career. During his peak, he earned $800,000 per season and made a career payment of over $7 million. Because of his gambling, however, he did not have anything close to this amount in his bank account. 

Since admitting his gambling problems in 2004, he has worked hard to stop gambling and recover his net worth. As a result, his current net worth is estimated at around $3 million.

Art Schlichter

Art made a name for himself as the quarterback for Ohio State Buckeyes. He eventually began playing in the NFL and earning a pretty penny due to his athletic ability. Aside from this, he also became well-known for his legendary gambling habits. 

Infamous for gambling away a $350,000 signing bonus, Art also gained $700,000 in gambling debt in 1982. After this, he lost a further $489,000 betting on basketball. From here, his losses piled up to a point where he never recovered.

Later, his problems intensified when he lost a further $1.5 million that he had borrowed with the hopes of winning enough to pay off all his debts. When the loans were investigated, he was sentenced to prison for theft and corrupt activities.  Ultimately, he lost all his wealth and eventually was charged with federal charges, of which he was found guilty. These charges included wire fraud, falsified tax returns, and bank fraud. Today, he holds an estimated net worth of just $400,000.