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Sports Betting in History: Rumors of Wrongdoing: The 1906 Sports Betting Scandal

Scott Morris | January 2, 2014

Sports betting has been around for almost as long as there have been sports to bet on. While no one knows for sure exactly when the first bet was placed on a sporting event, what we do know is that sports betting can make watching any match more fun, raising the stakes and allowing you to be personally invested in the outcome.  While everyone who bets on sports does so with the hope of a sizeable payday, the best part about betting on sporting events in the digital age is that it is safe, secure and allows win or lose you’re sure to enjoy watching the next big game a little more if you have some money riding on the outcome.

Today though, we are going to look back on one of the most infamous sports betting scandals of the 20th century.  It occurred in 1906 and involved two football teams, the Canton Bulldogs and the Massillon Tigers. These were two of the best teams in professional football that year. Here’s how it went down:

Canton Bulldogs – Massillon Tigers Sports Betting Scandal

While you may not have heard of this particular sports betting scandal it was actually the first major scandal of its kind to occur in the U.S.  The story broke when a Massillon newspaper charged the coach of the Canton team and one of the Tiger’s ends of fixing a series of two games between the teams.  One team was to win the first game while the other won the second, thereby calling for a third game that was to be played straight.

This was all to be done with the Ohio League Championship for 1906 at stake and though the charges raised by the Massillon newspaper were never proven, the scandal took its toll on both the Bulldog’s name and the sport of professional football in Ohio – souring public perception of the sport for nearly 10 years.

Breaking Down the Sequence of Events

After the first game ended, Canton’s coach went to the celebration that the Massillon team was having where he congratulated the team on their win.

The night after the second game, there was a fight that broke out among several fans and Canton players – allegations were made that the game had been fixed.  It was later written that the controversy all started with a man named Victor Kaufmann.  Victor was a doctor who apparently had placed a huge amount with a sportsbook…and lost!

It was also reported in the Massillon Independent that there had been an attempt to bribe many of the Tiger players to throw the game.  Another report stated that Canton players had contacted their favorite sportsbook and bet on their own team to win the second game.  They then supposedly approached the players of the opposing team asking for the game to be thrown in exchange for a share of the winnings.

In the End

The odd thing about this particular scandal is that the rumors of cheating were never confirmed but in spite of that fact rumors of wrongdoing were enough to soil the name of the teams involved. Comparisons can be made to today’s world of sports – a time when allegations of cheating through the use of performance enhancing drugs can often taint an athlete whether or not it was proven that they took a banned substance.

After all was said and done, football resumed in Ohio.  Wherever money is involved you can bet that sports betting will continue to have its scandals and controversy. In today’s age of analytics, comprehensive metrics and media scrutiny it is nearly impossible to get away with cheating, allowing sports enthusiasts to place educated bets with confidence.

Check back often for more great sports betting history like this.

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