Gambling in the NFL

By Connor Dullinger

A major gambling case has hit the NFL and NCAA after current New England Patriots wide receiver Kayshon Boutte was arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Thursday due to allegations of illegal sports betting. Boutte made these illegal sports bets while he was a star receiver for the Tigers of Louisiana State University.

The former sixth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft was officially charged with a misdemeanor count of gambling prohibited for persons under 21 as well as a felony count for computer fraud. 

Louisiana police found that Boutte made these bets from April 6, 2022 to May 7, 2023 while he was 20 years old and a player on the LSU football team. The 5-foot-11 wide receiver used an alias in order to get around the age requirement and make these bets, and reports found that – during this time period – the alias was responsible for over 8,900 wagers. These bets also included 17 bets on NCAA football games, including six bets on LSU games.

As a result, the school was quick to release a statement regarding Boutte’s arrest for  his gambling behavior that took place while he was a student and player at LSU.

“In July 2023, LSU was made aware of allegations regarding a former student-athlete’s improper conduct related to sports gambling while enrolled at the University,” LSU said in a statement on Thursday. “Since then, we have fully cooperated with all relevant authorities involved in the investigation and will continue to do so. We have no evidence that any other student-athletes participated in these prohibited activities, and we are grateful for measures that detect and discourage sports gambling related misconduct.”

According to reports, Boutte’s gambling continued until about a week after he was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the NFL draft. He played the full 2023-2024 NFL season with the Patriots where he appeared in five games and recorded two receptions for 19 yards. 

Despite the NFL declining to comment on the arrest and behavior of Boutte, a spokesperson for the Patriots acknowledged the situation their former draft pick was in.

“The New England Patriots are aware that Kayshon Boutte is cooperating with Louisiana police regarding their investigation into an underage gambling charge while he was a student at Louisiana State University,” a Patriots spokesperson told ESPN in a statement. Boutte’s case comes after the NFL had to discipline other players for gambling earlier in the season.

In 2023, Detroit Lion wide receiver Quintez Cephus, Lion safety C.J. Moore, and Washington Commander defensive end Shaka Toney were all suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games during the season. Additionally, former-first round pick Jameson Williams and fellow Lions wide receiver Stanley Berryhill were suspended six games each.

In 2022, former first-round pick and now Jacksonville Jaguar wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the entirety of the season after it was found that he was gambling on NFL games in 2021 while taking time away from the team for mental health reasons.

Players and sports personalities have all commented on the risk gambling poses to the league and the importance of staying diligent and avoiding the behavior.

“The integrity of the shield has to remain intact, for the good of all of our money, ” former NFL punter and now talk show host Pat McAfee said.” McAfee was not the only one thinking along these lines.

“The way to stop players gambling on sports is by doing what the NFL did today. The message is pretty clear that if you gamble on NFL games it’s gonna be a year suspension at least,” American sportswriter and commentator Ian Rapoport said.

While many support the NFL’s response to these players gambling, others think the NFL has some blame to bear given how the league chooses to advertise betting on the sport.

“As long as the N.F.L. has partnerships with betting companies, advertises betting during its games and encourages betting to the point of having sportsbooks on-site at N.F.L. stadiums, there will be “a level of cognitive dissonance for some players,” who may not fully realize the ramifications if they do bet on sports,” lawyer and Director of Sports Ethics at Baruch College Marc Edelman said. 

While it is not quite a trend,gambling by professional athletes continues to be a noticeable problem for some players in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if the NFL will change its ways with how it markets gambling to its viewers, and how it will discipline players that do gamble in the future.

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