Are All Pro Athletes Banned From Betting On Sports?

Sports and betting have gone hand in hand throughout history, but for a long while the two were officially separated in the USA. But that’s no longer the case. At the end of 2022, there was a big furore in the UFC when a betting scandal broke which forced the organization’s hand into laying down some new rules for its fighters.

UFC betting in the UK and the US is still a massive pull for bookmakers and the everyday bettor has a constant stream of legal markets to bet on. But the story is different for the fighters themselves. The fallout from Darrick Minner’s bout at UFC Vegas 64 in 2022 changed the lay of the land.

In 2023 there have been more high-profile stories of sportspeople being reprimanded for breaking betting regulations. English Premier League soccer player Ivan Toney received a huge eight-month ban, for example, and the NFL handed out suspensions to the likes of Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill.

Here we take a look at some of the major sports in North America and where things stand in general for players and betting.

2023 NFL Suspensions

In April 2023 the NFL suspended five players for breaking their gambling policy. Three Detroit Lions players received serious slaps on the wrist for betting on NFL matches, which is completely against the rules of the league.

Other players were suspended for placing sports bets from their respective team’s facilities. The bets by the aforementioned Williams and Berryhill were on college football, but the wagers were placed on official team grounds.

In 2021 Calvin Ridley was banned from an entire season for betting on the Atlanta Falcons while under contract with them. The NFL currently allows players to bet on other pro sports, college, international and Olympic sports.

The UFC FallOut

There was a major fallout after James Krause’s fighter Darrick Minner lost a bout at UFC Vegas 64 against Shaylian Nuerdanbieke. The result of the match quickly came under question due to the manner of Minner’s First Round loss.

It was backed by some alleged suspicious betting activity during the hours leading up to the fight, which backed his Chinese opponent to win in the first round. That was exactly what happened, and both trainer Krause and fighter Minner were suspended indefinitely for failing to report Minner’s pre-fight injury, which was the cause of the bout’s finish.

The result was UFC head Dana White moving to prohibit UFC fighters from betting on the sport, even on bouts that they are not involved in. That rule change extended to trainers, families and anyone close to the UFC. Such moves are designed to close the door on match-fixing.


College level basketball in the US has a widespread ban on players and coaches from any sports betting. This strict rule hasn’t changed even under pressure to do so, where critics claim that players who are of age, should be able to bet on the likes of the NBA, NHL and NFL as long as athletes aren’t wagering on their own sport.

The NBA is a little laxer and doesn’t forcefully stop players within their organization from legally gambling on other sports. The same goes for Major League Baseball who updated their policy in 2019.

MLB players can’t bet on their own games, and breaking that could see a permanent ban enforced. Pro baseball players are not permitted to bet on other fixtures that don’t involve their team either, an offense which carries a lesser penalty.

As for the NHL, they are probably the vaguest of the big four organizations at least in terms of there being no mentions of penalties for gambling infringements, leaving things up to a case-by-case basis to the Commissioner. NHL players are only blocked from betting on NHL games.

In Summary

The NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB all prohibit players from betting on their own games in something of a standardized blanket rule across North American Pro Sports. In addition, professionals are expected to report their activity to overseers within the respective organizations to keep things all above board. In some instances, fines are issued for simply not reporting betting activity.

Boxing is something of a strange outlier. In some jurisdictions, boxers can bet on themselves in fights outside the Olympic Games. But the way this is handled is that fighters are not allowed to bet against themselves, eliminating any potential incentive to lose. Sports and betting will, indeterminately be intertwined.

In 2018 the Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional Amateur Sports Protection Act. It was great news for bettors, as it opened the door in most states for people to go and place legal wagers on baseball, ice hockey, UFC, basketball, football and more. The big four organizations were opposed to the change.

Why? Because of questions of integrity over the professional sports that they run, which is understandable. Should betting undermine the integrity of a competition, then the competition is going to have a hard time surviving.

Published in Casino news

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