NBA legend Charles Barkley is apparently worried about what in-game wagering could do to the game of basketball.
Barkley, who is a brand ambassador for the sports betting company FanDuel, said on Wednesday that betting during a game on whether a player makes free throws is crossing the line.
According to ESPN, Barkley made the comments at a media event prior to a celebrity golf event.
“We’ve got people in the stands betting on who’s going make the next free throws,” Barkley said. “If I was a scumbag, I’d look at a guy in the stands, a friend, and say, ‘Yo, I’m going to miss both of these free throws.’ Now, that’s cheating […] I mean, c’mon man, if you’re able to bet on if a guy’s going to make two free throws in the middle of a basketball game, that’s obsessive.”
Barkley, who has admitted gambling losses in the millions of dollars, seems to believe that wagering in-game on free throws is a potential sign of a gambling addiction.
“Listen, gambling’s always been part of sports,” Barkley said, “[…] but I am concerned that you can sit in the stands and make bets now in the middle of a basketball game. But, like I said, the toothpaste is out of the tube, and I don’t know how to put it back in.”
Barkley is somewhat of an expert on gambling that gets out of control. “Do I have a gambling problem?” Barkley said in 2006. “Yeah, I do have a problem, but I don’t consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble. It’s just a stupid habit that I’ve got to get under control, because it’s just not a good thing to be broke after all these years.”
Barkley said then he was going to stop betting $20,000 a hand at the casino. At the possible peak of his gambling, Barkley lost $2.5 million in just a handful of hours, telling the AP in 2017: “I didn’t kill myself when I lost $2.5 million. I like to gamble and I’m not going to quit.”
In 2008, Barkley was able to avoid criminal charges related to a gambling debt in Las Vegas by agreeing to repay four $100,000 markers. In 2021, Barkley said in an interview with Graham Bensinger that he had lost $1 million on as many as 20 separate occasions.