Jontay Porter gambling investigation explained: NBA hands down lifetime ban after prop bet irregularities


The NBA issued a lifetime ban to Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter on Wednesday for violating league gambling rules. The league’s investigation found Porter guilty of “disclosing confidential information to sports bettors, limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes, and betting on NBA games.” The league’s probe is ongoing, but it was initially launched due to irregularities surrounding prop bets based on his statistics. 

The brewing scandal is the latest in a series of sports gambling controversies that have arisen of late. In the last month alone, Major League Baseball has dealt with betting issues involving Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter, while gambling watchdog company U.S. Integrity is investigating the Temple University men’s basketball team due to “suspicious betting activity.”

But the Porter situation, pending the results of the full investigation, has a chance to spiral into one of the worst sports betting scandals since legalization began to spread in 2018. The NBA is still investigating the integrity of games Porter himself participated in. The league’s report, released Wednesday, centered around the Raptors’ game against the Sacramento Kings on March 20, where Porter “disclosed confidential information about his own health status” to someone he knew was a bettor. Another bettor then wagered $80,000 on a parlay bet that would have won $1.1 million if Porter hit the under on his player props. Porter subsequently removed himself from that game after less than three minutes due to illness. 

Due to the unusual activity, the bet was frozen and never paid out. Licensed sports betting operators brought the suspicious bets to the NBA’s attention, which sparked the league’s investigation. 

Finding evidence that he made bets against himself or had involvement with anyone who bet against him represents a first since the sports gambling boom started six years ago.

So for now, let’s look at what exactly we know and what might be coming.

Who is Jontay Porter?

Jontay Porter is a 24-year-old forward who played collegiately at the University of Missouri. His brother is Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr. Porter was a highly touted prospect in high school, but went undrafted in 2019 due largely to injuries. In 2018, he tore both his ACL and MCL, and while rehabbing in 2019, he tore his ACL again.

His development was stunted thanks to those injuries, and he’s been a bit of a journeyman as a professional. He has played for the Memphis Grizzlies as well as three G-League teams: the Wisconsin Herd, Motor City Cruise and Raptors 905. In December, the Raptors signed him to a two-way contract worth $415,000. He has played in 26 games for the Raptors this season, averaging 13.8 minutes and 4.4 points per game.

What games are being investigated?

The investigation is currently centered on two games that Porter participated in:

  • The first game came on Jan. 26, between the Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers. In that game, Porter played four minutes and 24 seconds. He scored zero points and made no 3-pointers while racking up only one assist and three rebounds. He exited the game after that limited playing time with the Raptors saying at the time that he re-aggravated an eye injury he’d suffered in Toronto’s previous game, a Jan. 22 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
  • The second game came on March 20 between the Raptors and the Sacramento Kings. Porter’s playing time was again limited, this time to two minutes and 43 seconds. He again exited the game early, this time with the Raptors saying it happened due to illness. Porter scored no points and dished out no assists while finishing with only two rebounds.

Why are these games being investigated?

The NBA is investigating these games because of irregular betting patterns surrounding Porter’s prop bets. In the first game, there were prop lines available for Porter’s points (over or under 5.5), rebounds (4.5), assists (1.5) and made 3-pointers (0.5). In the second, Porter had lines available for roughly 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.

After the Jan. 26 game against the Clippers, DraftKings sent out a daily report to users that stated that the under on Porter’s 3-pointers was the biggest money winner for bettors among all NBA props from that night of games. After the March 20 game, a DraftKings media release stated that Porter prop bets were the No. 1 moneymaker for that night of NBA games.

While the exact number will vary based on the book, the bettor and a number of other factors, prop bets are generally limited to between $1,000 and $2,000. One source told ESPN that multiple betting accounts attempted to place bets upward of $10,000 and $20,000 on Porter props ahead of the Clippers game.

“People were trying to do whatever they could to bet Jontay Porter props [against the Clippers],” the source told ESPN. “And then, just a few days ago, the same thing. We had a bunch of people trying to bet under for more.”

Porter then missed Toronto’s next two games for what the Raptors have called “personal reasons.”

So what exactly is being alleged here?

The initial ESPN report did not make specific allegations against Porter or anyone else.

However, based on the nature of these betting patterns, we can assume that the broad nature of the investigation is to determine whether or not Porter intentionally ensured that his statistics came in below those prop lines. In theory, any player has the capacity to guarantee that they miss any statistical benchmark. If a player’s 3-point prop is set at 0.5, for instance, a player can guarantee they will come in under that line simply by avoiding even attempting a 3-pointer. Prop bets are considered active once a player has appeared in a game, so a player could also simply remove himself once he gets close enough to the line.

Such a player could potentially benefit from doing so either by directly betting against themself or by informing other bettors of their intent and allowing those bettors to place bets based on that information. At this stage, though, there has been no reporting directly accusing Porter of such behavior. The investigation seemingly remains in the early stages.

Were there any extenuating circumstances that might have changed betting patterns?

Porter was not listed on the pre-game injury report for either the Jan. 26 game against the Clippers or the March 20 game against the Kings. Both games, however, saw a number of other Raptors players injured. Immanuel Quickley and Jakob Poeltl both missed the Clippers game. Quickley, Poeltl, Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher and RJ Barrett all missed the Kings game.

The absence of these key players theoretically could have factored into the lines set for Porter, especially since Quickley, Toronto’s starting point guard and a primary ball-handler, played in the game directly preceding both of the games being investigated. Essentially, with all of those key players out, Porter would theoretically be due more minutes and shot attempts. That would be the simplest, non-gambling-related explanation for the extra interest in Porter props. Of course, any betting results as unusual as the ones involving Porter in these games warrant investigation, so the league is attempting to figure out now whether or not there was foul play involved.

What is the NBA’s policy on gambling?

The NBA’s policy on gambling is ironclad. No one affiliated with the NBA, either as a player or employee of a team or the league, is allowed to bet on any NBA property. That includes the NBA, the WNBA, the G-League, Basketball Africa League, NBA2K League or Summer League. The league makes this very clear to the players. It is stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement that all players must attend one anti-gambling training session conducted by the team or the league each season, and failing to do so generates a $100,000 fine.

Punishments for gambling violations can range from fines to suspensions to possible termination of contracts. Every team has a dedicated staffer to monitor for sports betting issues, and the league has its own team of data scientists doing the same.

Has the NBA ever disciplined a player for gambling?

Technically, the answer is yes, but it’s been a while. In 1951, eight players were banned for shaving points in college, six of whom played for City College of New York. In 1954, Jack Molinas of the Fort Wayne Pistons was permanently banned for betting on his own team while in college. 

In 1961, Tony Jackson and Doug Moe were both banned due to their involvement in the 1961 NCAA men’s basketball gambling scandal, though Moe’s ban would eventually be reversed and he would go on to become a longtime NBA coach. In 1966, Roger Brown was banned merely for his association with Molinas. He was never accused of point shaving, and he was ultimately reinstated, but he never played in the NBA. He spent his entire playing career in the ABA, mostly playing for the Indiana Pacers. No player has been disciplined for gambling since.

However, the NBA has had one other major gambling scandal since then. It just involved a referee, not a player. Tim Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce. He is known to have both bet on games that he officiated as well as pass information to bettors who would profit themselves and then pay him for correct picks.

What has been said on the record about the investigation?

Porter has not yet spoken to the media. His brother declined to address the media after his Denver Nuggets defeated the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, March 25. The Raptors have not issued a statement on the subject. 

The most extensive comments given thus far belong to Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic. He told reporters that he became aware of the situation shortly before the Raptors’ game on March 25, a loss to the Brooklyn Nets. “I never doubt injuries. I never doubt honesty from players,” Rajaković said. “Obviously, I’ve never had a situation like this before.” This would imply that that Porter himself indicated to the team that he needed to be pulled out of those games early, though Rajakovic did not say so definitively. As of his postgame press conference on Monday, Rajakovic had not addressed the team on the subject.

“I don’t know their reaction,” Rajaković said. “I just know nobody wants those kind of situations to happen to anybody, to any team. We’ve just got to deal with it.”

The investigation is still ongoing. CBS Sports will update this story as it develops.



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