Man behind one of largest point-shaving scandal in history: 'Greed kills'Posted: Updated:
As a floor trader at the Chicago Board of Trade, Joe Gagliano says it was the chaotic environment that got him hooked on the thrill of sports gambling.
"I liked the action."
"I learned to embrace the gray areas,” he said as he reflected on the early ’90s. “I certainly knew right from wrong. My father was a Chicago police officer."
But that police officer’s son could not turn away from the thrill of quick money -- and a lot of it. His brother was attending Arizona State University and lived next to a bookmaker. One of his biggest clients was ASU's star point guard Stevin “Hedake” Smith.
"Hedake got into the bookmaker for about $20,000 to $30,000 [and] had no way to pay it,” Gagliano explained. “So we -- I – kind of concocted the plan. ‘Hey, I'll forgive your gambling debt and I'll give you 50,000 bucks a game if you give me the outcome or can control the outcome of two games.’"
He admitted he knew it was not right.
“Yeah, I knew it was wrong,” he said. “But once again, it goes back to my definition of right and wrong in that point in my life with the environment that I was in at the Board of Trade. I was dancing and playing in the gray areas. Looking back now 20 years later, man, I know I was flat-out wrong. "
I loved everything about the financial markets from the very first day. The pace, the lifestyle and the flash were all intoxicating. But most of all I was drawn to the nonstop action. ... The fast money and rapid decision-making had been imprinted on me. ... To me, having them betting on a fixed game wasn't like robbing a bank or stealing from little old ladies. My moral compass was not absolute.
From "No Grey Areas"
"There was a ton of money in Vegas,” he continued “It was a Thursday night and, um, I flew out there with a duffel bag with a half-millon in cash.”
To avoid attracting attention, he used more than 30 casinos to bet the first game to lay off that half-million. But he also used bookies across the Midwest to bet another $500,000. He told Hedake after the morning shootaround that the line was at six, and the fix was on.
"I tell you what, it was nothing short of amazing,” Gagliano recalled. “He had 39 points that first game, offense performance of the year pretty much. But what people don't get about point shaving, it’s not about the offense performance. It’s about what they do defensively. It's about what they do against the player that they are guarding."
A half step back or allowing a pass to happen can very hard to detect. But moving a game's betting line in Vegas? That attracts attention. Gagliano and the others would bet millions more on two more games -- and win.
A late-season, meaningless game against Washington moved the betting line on the Sun Devils dramatically, and that caught the attention of the Vegas sports books, the NCAA and, ultimately, the FBI.
"The downfall was basically greed,” Gagliano said. “Greed kills."
I'm a guy who has made poor choices for the sake of greed and success. ... A guy who charted a path that took him into grey areas and then had to pay the price for those ill-fated choices. I am the guy with a story that can make a difference ....
From "No Grey Areas"
Gagliano was indicted for the point-shaving scheme in 1998, along with Smith, his teammate Isaac Burton and four others.
"I knew I did it,” Gagliano said. “I knew after reflecting on it, I had to own it. And I knew the crime that I committed. And I realized [that] not only did it hurt the players, not only did it hurt the integrity of sports, it hurt the NCAA. It hurt the integrity of the game in general."
Smith, a predicted NBA first-rounder, was never drafted that year. He played internationally for several years and signed a few 10-day contracts with the Dallas Mavericks. In all, Smith played 60 minutes over a span of eight NBA games. He was sentenced to a year in jail in 1997. He now mentors young people in the Dallas area.
For Gagliano, it was a rough road, as well. He served two federal prison terms. He also considered suicide after a second conviction over a land deal that went belly up, but says he's now found strength in his faith.
Gagliano says he wants to work more with the NCAA to steer athletes clear of the lure of easy money.
If anything, I'm here to admit that I'm probably about the stupidest "smart" guy you will ever meet. ... I wish I could turn back time to my youth.
From "No Grey Areas"
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