Jontay Porter got a lifetime ban he earned, and he was caught because the system works

Everyone knew something was amiss with the betting on Jontay Porter's props. It was right out in the open.

There was no big investigation that exposed Porter, just DraftKings putting out daily reports on the top winning bets for its users. The unders on Porter for two games, on Jan. 26 and March 20, were the biggest winners at DraftKings those two days. Considering Porter was practically a no-name player for the Toronto Raptors — at least before he became infamous in a betting scandal — averaging 13.8 minutes per game, huge bets on the unders for his props were a clear red flag. Especially when Porter left each game early with an injury and then an illness.

It wasn't hard to figure out what was going on, and on Wednesday the NBA banned Porter for life. He violated NBA rules by "disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes, and betting on NBA games," according to the NBA's statement.

Whether it's Calvin Ridley, a former Alabama baseball coach, Porter or anyone else caught up in a betting scandal lately, the salacious headlines subside and a rational truth emerges.

Having legal sports betting in place is what brought the scandal to light, and what led to banning a player with no regard for the integrity of the game.

Jontay Porter of the Toronto Raptors was banned by the NBA for life for violating the league's gambling rules. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Jontay Porter of the Toronto Raptors was banned by the NBA for life for violating the league's gambling rules. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Legal entities raising red flags

There have undoubtedly been more scandals involving betting in the sports world since the Supreme Court decided in 2018 to allow states to decide whether to make sports betting legal. Are the scandals happening because sports betting is more prevalent, or have there always been rule breakers who went unnoticed because sports betting was illegal outside of Nevada? Illegal bookies aren't putting out daily reports on which bets made the most money the night before, and they aren't tipping off the gaming control board or league itself when they think a professional player might be placing parlays with them. And illegal betting was prevalent; in 2021 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated there was $1.7 trillion bet illegally on sports each year.

The system might be leading to more athletes taking chances because it's more accessible than ever. But Porter got caught because the system ultimately works.

When Ridley got caught making bets on NFL games, Hard Rock Sportsbook in Florida alerted the NFL's data provider, Genius Sports, which told the league. Ridley was suspended for a year.

Last year, an Ohio casino commission integrity board member alerted suspicious betting action on an LSU-Alabama baseball game. Two bets including one large wager were made at the sportsbook at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, and Alabama's starting pitcher was scratched due to an injury. Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon was fired shortly after the suspicious betting activity was alerted.

Arizona Cardinals defensive back Josh Shaw got caught in 2019 when he made NFL bets at a Caesars Sportsbook in Las Vegas, and the sportsbook alerted the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the NFL, according to ESPN. When some Detroit Lions got in trouble for violating betting rules they did so on mobile betting apps that track location. All the way back to 1994, an Arizona State basketball point shaving scandal was uncovered because there were unusually large bets on the Sun Devils' games in Nevada, and the FBI was alerted.

All of the scandals were uncovered because the entities involved were legal, and free to raise concerns to authorities. And eventually, as athletes see that getting around the rules doesn't work and they're putting their careers on the line to try it, it will be a deterrent.

Jontay Porter banned for life

Porter doesn't deserve pity. The many jokes on social media about the NBA having betting sponsorships is just whataboutism. Every professional athlete knows by now the rules on betting. Betting on your own sport is forbidden and even the most casual fan knows that by now. Betting big on yourself to go under a prop for 3-pointers and then bowing out of a game early with an illness is beyond ridiculous.

Porter and all other NBA players have an easy rule to follow when it comes to betting, and he broke it in a brazen way. That has nothing to do with whoever is the official betting partner of the NBA. Porter broke a cardinal rule and deserves to be banned for life for it. It's not like he was tricked into it, and according to a report by Action Network he was very familiar with the sports betting world.

Porter's name will be remembered for a long time. It's still rare for a professional athlete to risk his career by knowingly violating betting rules. There will always be athletes who break the rules on gambling, like there are a few athletes who break rules on domestic violence or performance enhancing drugs, but they'll be found out pretty fast. That's what happened with Porter, Ridley and others.

There will be more sports betting scandals. The cautionary stories before Porter didn't stop him from taking a shot. And ultimately, the legal sportsbooks will monitor the unusual activity, report it to the proper channels, and those athletes and coaches will be punished harshly.

That's what was supposed to happen with legal sports betting.