At first, he was only betting $10 a game, and maybe one or two games a night. And then he started to win. In two months he made $400. He felt confident, lucky, unbeatable. The money began to flow between him and his bookie. The first round March Madness struck, and within a week, junior John Beam* had lost nearly $1,500.
“I think it was the first day of March Madness and I put $50 on all the first round games, and I got to be down probably 200, 250 bucks just right off the bat.” Beam said, “And I knew I had some money set aside, around $400 or $500 set aside just from my winnings so I kept on betting.”
Beam began his spiraling downfall of sports gambling in December of last year, when he and around 40 other East students began to bet with current junior and former bookie Jack Williams*. The bets started out with small amounts of money, and for most others, they stayed small. According to Beam, when he switched bookies from Williams to former East student Scott Smith* at the beginning of March Madness was when he really began to bet.
For an entire week, Beam bet on eight games a night, setting down $250 for every game. Beam won some, but lost most, ending up more than $1000 in the hole.
“That’s when I got out. I knew, it just wasn’t getting any better.” Beam said.
The stress was too much, and Beam reached out to his father for support, and the two withdrew $1500 from his fathers bank account to pay off Beam’s debts to Smith.
“It was probably one of the worst months of my life.” Beam said. “Just the stress and no sleep. It pretty much dominated my life for that while. I wasn’t really focused on anything else.” Beam said.
Beam’s case was an extreme of the type of sports gambling that occurs at East. Many of the gamblers stayed with Williams, with whom one of the largest bets was $120, compared to the $250 Beam bet on average with Smith.
Williams began his gambling career by placing family bets with his dad and grandfather when he was in fourth grade. The betting quickly spread among him and his friends, where the gambling added an extra layer of interest to the games. Before he only wanted his teams to win, but after he started gambling, he needed them win so he could get his money. Only last year when he needed money did Williams see an opportunity to convert his friendly gambling into a more serious business.
The money Williams made as a bookie is called “the juice”, or a 10 percent cut taken off of all the losing bets. As a bookie, it was Williams job to create the spread, or how much a team would win by, so that when all the bets were taken in, the bets on both sides would be even.
“Lets say KU is playing K-State. You try to get $100 bet on one side and $100 bet on the other, and you take 10 percent of the losings. So if it works out perfectly, it will end up $100 to $100, and you get an automatic $10.” Williams said, “It’s basically what Vegas does but you do it yourself.”
While bets were placed on most professional and college football and basketball games, the most popular events included basketball games, and local colleges such as KU, K-State, and MU. For Williams, the biggest event that was bet on was last years Super Bowl, where a $300 was set down for each side, for a total of $600 bet on the event, and an automatic $30 for Williams.
The fact that betting and running money is illegal everywhere but Las Vegas never bothered Williams, as he felt that the group wasn’t large enough to attract any attention from the law.
“We weren’t really pulling in that much money, and nobody that we were taking money from was getting in harms way or anything.” Williams said, “It was all their parents money, so we never really cared about it.”
Without much profit, Williams saw no reason to continue his business this, and has stepped down from his position as a bookie and let two others take his place. And even though the gambling has returned to its streak as betting between friends, Beam says that he has learned his lesson, and will not returned to betting. And from Williams point of view, this is a good decision.
“Usually, everyone ends up losing, because they win half, and they lose half, and they end up losing that 10 percent. So basically everyone’s just screwed in the end. Except for me. And I make that 10 percent.” Williams said.