5 celebrities who you may not know are serious sports bettors

Since the Supreme Court repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in 2018, sports gambling in the United States has become an $11 billion business, per 2023 revenue figures from the American Gaming Association. With its increasing popularity, sports betting is not only a topic on many U.S. ballots but also on many Americans’ minds, including celebrities.

Sports betting’s explosive growth is only expected to continue seeing as a dozen states are still working toward legality or holding out. Once the market is mature, projections put the business’ value at $45 billion.

Until that landmark decision by the Supreme Court six years ago, wagers on games and players were relegated to Nevada. For a long time, the only publicly acceptable discussions of sports gambling were built around sly references to point spreads by handicappers like Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, perhaps the first celebrity sports prognosticator. In 1976, he was hired by CBS to offer final score predictions on “The NFL Today.”

A decade later, Michael Jordan began his ascent to the NBA throne—and as the unofficial godfather of celebrity gambling. At the height of his career in 1993, he was seen in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino the night before a playoff game in New York. That same year, he allegedly made enormous bets on the links and in card games and reportedly negotiated a $1.25 million golf bet debt down to a $300,000 settlement. Rumors swirled even after Jordan told “60 Minutes” in 2005 that, though he’d “pushed the envelope,” gambling had not jeopardized his family or livelihood.

Jordan’s fame may have allowed him to get away with what others couldn’t, though the MLB’s Pete Rose was not as lucky. Jordan’s escapades were considered friendly wagers. He famously palled around with Charles Barkley, betting thousands per hole in golf games. They loved to compete for money on the course just as they had for supremacy on the court.

Now that sports gambling is above board, however, big names don’t have to obfuscate, leading some to flaunt their betting slips on social media. To see what the rich and famous are betting on, ATS.io compiled a list of celebrities who are serious sports bettors.

Ashton Kutcher attends premiere of ‘Vengence’ during Tribeca Festival.
Mark Sagliocco/WireImage // Getty Images

Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher, the actor-turned-venture capitalist perhaps best known for his role as Michael Kelso on “That ’70s Show,” had at least one turn as a professional sports bettor. In 2013, he told Esquire he was “a front for the largest sports-betting syndicate in America.” Kutcher detailed sharps and squares, statistical anomalies, and opportunities to make money betting on college football. He was a plant, hoping to catch bookmakers unaware that pros were behind the wagers. It lasted only a month, but the operation netted $750,000.

Drake and son attend a Toronto Raptors game.
Mark Blinch // Getty Images

Drake

Rapper and musician Drake has won five Grammy Awards, but in certain circles, he is more revered for his sports betting—perhaps because he shares bets on Instagram and other platforms. He is far from an expert but as prolific as they come, routinely betting huge sums on combat sports, Formula 1, and other contests. He has won and lost tens of millions of dollars at the roulette wheel, too, though his sports gambling reputation has coined the term “the Drake curse,” due to his tendency to jinx athletes and teams. However, in February 2024, he placed a successful $1.15 million wager on Kansas City to win the Super Bowl.

Matt Lucas is interviewed by Nigel Mitchell at a Premiere League Arsenal match.
David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Matt Lucas

Actor-comedian Matt Lucas rose to fame on the early 2000s British sketch comedy series “Little Britain” but gained popularity in the U.S. after appearing in the 2011 hit comedy “Bridesmaids” and more recently in the 2023 “Wonka” movie.

He’s a huge supporter of the Premier League team Arsenal—no surprise for someone from London. He shared a long-shot parlay he made on a Gunners match in 2022, writing on X, “Occasionally I place small bets on unlikely events with long odds.”

Not only did he accurately predict the first goal scorer, Eddie Nketiah, but he also bet that Leeds United’s Luke Ayling would be sent off via a red card. The first goal came just five minutes in after a goalkeeper blunder, and the astronomical odds of 175-1 were assured only 22 minutes later after a video assistant referee review upgraded a yellow card to a red one, returning Lucas £352 on a £2 flier (about $440 on a $2.50 bet).

Phil Mickelson gives a thumbs up prior to the US Open.
Warren Little // Getty Images

Phil Mickelson

As of May 2024, golfer Phil Mickelson has made $96.6 million on the PGA Tour and about $800 million in sponsorship deals, appearance fees, and golf course design fees. This is impressive, considering he reportedly gambled away more than $1 billion. In thousands of wagers, including 858 bets of $220,000 apiece and others as high as $400,000, Mickelson lost close to $100 million, according to the 2023 book “Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk” by preeminent sports bettor Billy Walters. The astounding figures sparked quite the controversy, and in 2023, Mickelson revealed he’d undergone treatment for gambling addiction.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. at a basketball game.
Ethan Miller // Getty Images

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Another celebrity known for posting his betting slips—and wads of cash—on social media, boxing champ Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. completed his 50-0 career in 2017. He also took the idea of betting on oneself quite literally that year when he tried to place bets on his fight against UFC star Conor McGregor at a Las Vegas casino. The wagers weren’t accepted because of concerns about their legality, but he would have won both bets he attempted.

Like Mickelson, Mayweather was also an associate of Walters. He made $1 billion during his career and was known to bet huge amounts, with limits up to $500,000 at two casinos, according to Walters. He also may have made the largest sports bet in history: $10 million on the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl in 2014. They lost 43-8.

Story editing by Jaimie Etkin. Copy editing by Paris Close.

This story originally appeared on ATS.io and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

Provided by Stacker

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