California's gambling laws primarily exist to protect the public from the risks associated with rigging and manipulating sporting events, whether it's to tilt the odds in one's favor or to guarantee others will lose.
One key example of this unfair manipulation is when someone bribes a player or participant in a sporting event to "throw" the event (i.e., to lose on purpose).
Not only does this undermine the integrity of the sport itself, but it also removes the chance element by effectively guaranteeing an outcome in your favor and to others' detriment.
For this reason, it's a crime in California to bribe a participant to throw a sporting event defined under Penal Code 337b PC. You could face up to three years in prison if convicted of this crime.
To prove that someone bribed a player or participant to throw a sporting event, prosecutors must prove certain factors called the “elements of the crime.”
First, they must show that a defendant gave, offered, or promised to give money, a bribe, or attempted to do so to a participant or player in a sporting event, contest, or exhibition.
Next, the bribe was offered with the intention or understanding that the participant or player would not use their best efforts to win a sporting event. Let's review this state law in more detail below.
What Does the Law Say?
Penal Code 337b PC specifically makes it a crime to give, promise or offer any "money, bribe, or anything of value" to influence a participant in any "sporting event, contest, or exhibition of any kind whatsoever" to do any of the following:
- Decline to give their best effort to win the event;
- Assist another player, participant, or team to win the event; or
- Attempt to limit their own (or their team's) margin of victory in the event.
In other words, bribing someone to "throw" a sporting event constitutes more than just paying them to lose; it can also involve paying them to help the other team win or even to influence the overall score.
Simply put, PC 337b makes it a crime to pay anything of value to a player or participant to skew the outcome of the sporting event in any way.
Specific examples of sporting events and contests that come under this law include, but are not limited to:
- Boxing matches;
- Wrestling matches;
- Horse races.
Penal Code 337b says, “Any person who gives, offers or attempts to give any money, bribe, or thing of value, to any participant or player, in any sporting event, contest, or exhibition of any kind whatsoever, specifically including such sporting events, as baseball, football, basketball, boxing, horse racing, and wrestling matches, with the intention or understanding or agreement that such participant or player shall not use their best efforts to win such sporting event, or limit their team's margin of victory, shall be punished by imprisonment and fined.”
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: John is betting on a boxing match in which one contestant is highly favored to win over the other. John approaches the favored boxer and offers him money to throw the match, then bets on the other boxer because the uneven odds mean a high payout if he wins. John can be convicted for bribing the boxer under PC 337b.
EXAMPLE 2: Dave has placed a bet on a football game, but he can win more money if he guesses the final score within a certain margin. Dave offers to give $100,000 to the quarterback of the team he's betting on if he (the quarterback) will "fumble" a couple of times to keep the winning score within an acceptable margin.
Although he didn't bribe the quarterback to lose the game, Dave can still be charged under PC 337b because he used the money to get the quarterback to limit the team's margin of victory.
What are the Related Crimes?
There are several related California offenses for Penal Code 337b PC bribing a player or participant to throw a sporting event, including the following:
- Penal Code 337a PC – bookmarking, pool-selling, wagering;
- Penal Code 330 PC – illegal gambling;
- Penal Code 332 PC – gambling fraud;
- Penal Code 641.3 PC – commercial bribery;
- Penal Code 186.22 PC – gang enhancement.
What Are the Penalties for PC 337b?
Bribing a player/participant to throw a sporting event is a "wobbler" offense in California, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case.
- If you're convicted of a misdemeanor: you face a maximum of 1 year in county jail.
- If you're convicted of a felony: you face 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison.
In either case, the judge has the latitude to take circumstances into account and impose probation instead of jail or prison time, such as summary probation for misdemeanors and formal probation for felonies.
What Are the Defenses for PC 337b?
Suppose you're charged with a violation of PC 337b. In that case, a good California criminal defense attorney can use one or more defense strategies to get an acquittal, get the charges dropped, or reduce penalties. These common defenses are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that you did not bribe the player/participant to throw the match or game. This law only applies to situations where you bribe a participant to lose or underperform deliberately. If, for example, you gave the player money as an incentive to win, PC 337b does not apply.
Perhaps we can argue that your gift was not intended as a bribe. For example, you can't be convicted of this crime if you gave them money for an unrelated purpose, and there's no evidence that it came with any conditions regarding throwing the game or match.
Perhaps we can argue police entrapment. This defense may apply if you were induced by law enforcement (for example, in a gambling sting operation) to commit a crime you would not otherwise have committed.
If you can provide evidence that you were entrapped by law enforcement, the resulting evidence must be thrown out, or the charge must be dismissed.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or convince them prefiling not to file formal criminal charges in the first place, called a “DA reject.”
You can contact us for an initial case consultation via phone or the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, CA.