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Which Pro Athlete Had the Worst Gambling Addiction Ever?

The worlds of sports and gambling are tightly intertwined. Sports gambling is an incredibly popular past time in this country. That popularity even extends to some of the players. Of course, athletes betting on their own sports is highly discouraged, but that doesn’t stop many from playing casino games or partaking in other kinds of gambling.

Throughout the years, there have been several athletes who achieved a great deal of notoriety for their gambling habits. Let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders and determine which one had the worst gambling addiction ever. 

Charles Barkley

Current NBA analyst and former forward Charles Barkley was known for his rebounding and scoring ability. Since retiring, however, he’s shown quite the proclivity for gambling. Barkley’s gambling addiction got so out of control that he’s actually been sued by the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas for unpaid debts. It’s estimated Barkley has lost over $30 million gambling over the course of his life. 

Why did Barkley gamble so much? According to him, because he could afford to: 

“It’s a stupid, bad habit. I have a problem … But the problem is when you can’t afford it. I can afford to gamble. I didn’t kill myself when I lost two and half million dollars. I like to gamble and I’m not going to quit.”

Michael Jordan

One of Barkley’s contemporaries, best friends, and the best basketball player of all time is also known for his gambling addiction. Michael Jordan is known for gambling on just about anything he can — casino games, personal card games, golf matches, and he would even place bets in practice.

Whereas Barkley seemed to enjoy winning money, Jordan seemed to thrive on the sheer competition of it. Jordan was well-known for being fiercely competitive during his career and that carried over to his gambling life as well. 

One crazy Jordan gambling tale comes from former Chicago Blackhawks player Jeremy Roenick. Jordan challenged Roenick to a golf match and lost. He challenged Roenick again — despite having a game later that night — and lost again.

Roenick jokingly said he was going to use the money he’d won against Jordan to bet against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls opponent that night. Jordan bet Roenick the Bulls would win by 20 and he would score 40. He accomplished both and won the bet. 

Pete Rose

Few athletes are as closely associated with gambling as former Cincinnati Reds’ player and manager Pete Rose. Rose was banished from the sport in the late ’80s due to betting on baseball — known as the cardinal sin in most clubhouses.

For years, Rose denied he bet on the sport. He admitted to it in 2004 in an attempt to save face and get in the Hall of Fame. He has yet to gain entry into Cooperstown. 

John Daly’s legendary gambling addiction

John Daly smoking a cigarette while playing golf
John Daly | Minas Panagiotakis/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As much as the previous three individuals are known for gambling, it’s hard to compare them to the athlete who probably has the worst gambling addiction ever: professional golfer John Daly. Daly is a man defined by his vices such as smoking, drinking, and eating. Gambling is another one of them. Daly once told ESPN that he lost upwards of $50 million gambling.

“We figured I lost about $98 million and won about $45 million gambling. So yeah I lost around $50 million.”

Those are hard to comprehend numbers, even for someone as wealthy as Daly. The staggering number is the $98 million Daly lost without taking the $45 million into account he’d won back. As USA Today pointed out, Daly has lost more money than most of the highest-earning golfers have made in their career.