‘Who’s going to catch me?’ A former campus bookie tells his story

‘Who’s going to catch me?’ A former campus bookie tells his story
‘Who’s going to catch me?’ A former campus bookie tells his story

Last spring, an NCAA survey of 18- to 22-year-olds found that 67% of college students living on campus had placed bets on sports. More than a third of those used a student bookmaker. ESPN’s Outside the Lines spoke with “Jack,” a former college athlete who said he became an agent for a bookmaker and took bets from about 55 to 60 people, including more than a dozen athletes. Two of them, he said, went on to play professional basketball and football. “Jack,” who spoke on condition of anonymity, was a practice squad player for a Division I basketball program in a Power 5 conference from 2017 to 2019.

Here is his story in his own words.

I was introduced to betting my freshman year of college. I thought being an athlete, I had knowledge about sports, I had knowledge about personnel. I started betting on football, basketball, baseball.

I started small, $20, $40. I bet illegally online through a bookie. I had grown up with him. He was at a different school, also a former athlete. You get a credit line, which is like monopoly money, and you bet it. At the end of the week, it becomes real money. Whatever your balance is what you owe or what you get paid. In the early days, it was never a problem. I usually lost between $100 to $200 max.

I started winning money, so I figured, oh man, this is easy. I can do this. Then it kind of snowballs on you. Before you know it, you’re waking up, what are we taking? What’s live right now? Going to breakfast, going to a workout, watching a game, having a game on my phone just to stimulate me. I had parlays going even in classes. It’s almost like surviving a car accident. You’re in the car and your heart’s beating, and your body’s in shock. That’s kind of to a miniature scale, the state of gambling. And I happen to like that feeling.

I started asking for more credit, anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 at the beginning of my sophomore year. It’s like consuming any drug. You build a tolerance. It wasn’t getting me high enough with the little amounts of money anymore.

My sophomore or junior year, one of the guys I knew reached out to me and said, “Do you want to do this? Get guys on board.” My role as an agent was to get people on my sheet and then collect money from them or pay them out. I was probably the lowest on the chain for the operation. That’s how it works. These big guys get agents who can get a lot of people to get on their sheet, then they give them a percentage and they fund the book. I don’t even really know the true head guy.

I probably had 55-60 people on my sheet: students, athletes and parents of students. I took a lot of football bets from football players. They bet on their own team, other teams, basketball, football, you name it. I never took a bet on their own team to lose. A starter on the basketball team bet on the team once or twice, once on the over, another time on his team to win. He said, “I heard you’re the guy to go to. I had a guy in high school.”

My junior year and senior year I bet on the team. They were spread bets, moneyline bets.

I started taking my own money and putting it on the opposite gains of what people gave me to bet. I was definitely growing my addiction.

I felt like I’m a kid in a college town doing this. Who’s going to catch me? The government probably doesn’t even care about it. I never thought anyone would find out.

I stopped running the book in my senior year just because it had done so well. I didn’t want to keep up. Kids owe you money, got to chase them. I didn’t want to chase.

It became a problem for me once I stopped. They had extended me money to gamble, and I ended up losing a lot of it, north of $50,000. Like I said, it snowballs on you before you know it because these guys know you’re going to lose eventually. I got in debt where I owed a lot of people money — friends; family; bigger, higher-up bookies. $80,000 to $100,000 at the end of the day.

I’ve been threatened for sure. I’ve had my house called, relatives called, friends called. “I’ll hurt you, I’ll show up to your house and I’ll tell your parents what’s going on.”

I was waking up trying to gamble, trying to see how I could get money. I used all the books: DraftKings, Caesars, BetMGM, Barstool. I was not in a healthy state. I was not eating. I was taking money that I was supposed to use to eat to try and gamble, to pay people. It was an endless cycle.

I remember going down to a river where I used to live and walking around and just thinking, I have to make a call. Thoughts of ending my life, too. This is so big, how am I going to deal with this kind of situation? I thought of harming myself. I never planned it out, but it was definitely a thought of just, “How do I come clean? What’s everyone going to think of me? Where do I even start to clean this up?”

About a year and a half ago, I called my family and let them know I have a gambling problem. I owe people money, I can’t get out of it. I don’t know who else to go to. I don’t know what else to do.

I was in a treatment program for about 40 days. I haven’t bet now in a long time, probably over a year. Kids send me screenshots of what they’re doing, so I’m still kind of around it. I’ve just changed my mental focus. One, I don’t have the money to gamble. Two, if I do gamble, it’s going to consume me.

Betting has gotten more popular as the apps and the promotion have gotten more popular. Everyone knows what’s going on. Athletes know what’s going on. Athletes know personnel. It’s always going to be something hard to stop. It’s kind of like robbing a store with a cop waiting outside. Kids are smarter than that. They’ll go and find someone — find someone like me — and place it through there.

You can always find a guy.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-Gambler.

Source: espn.ph

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