On a late afternoon in June 2018, Craig Carton is at a high-limit blackjack table in a casino just outside of Philadelphia.
The high-profile New York sports-talk host is fighting an internal battle between his ego and his soul. He needs to double down but doesn’t have the cash in front of him.
Nine months earlier, Carton had been arrested by federal agents at his home and charged with fraud for his role in a concert ticket resale scheme, some of the proceeds from which he used to pay off gambling debts. He resigned from the No. 1 sports-talk show in New York City, “Boomer & Carton,” on Sept. 13, 2017. His dream job was gone, and his freedom was in jeopardy.
Yet, even after spending two weeks at a gambling rehabilitation center, he was back at the blackjack table months later, debating his next move.
Carton knows the correct play for the hand he has just been dealt is to double down, but to do so, he’ll need to race out to the parking lot and get the money he purposely left in his truck as a test of self-control. The advantage play for his life, however, is to step away from gambling altogether. Carton asks the dealer to pause the game and heads to get the money.
An hour later, he has lost it all and failed his own test, but he may have won the war within himself — and that personal victory could help America’s growing betting market tackle one of its most critical challenges.
“At that point, I was willing to admit to myself that I had a problem,” Carton said during a series of recent interviews with ESPN conducted on Zoom. “That really started my journey of being able to tell you I have a problem, and those are two different things. Owning that I have a problem is one thing and then to be able to look another man in his face, eye-to-eye, and not care what you think of me … honestly, that was the toughest hill for me to climb. Thankfully, I was able to climb it, because a lot of people don’t.”
Carton says he hasn’t gambled since that afternoon blackjack session in June 2018. He was convicted of fraud in the spring of 2019, sentenced to 3½ years in federal prison and required to pay $4.8 million in restitution to the victims of his crime. He was released from prison in June 2020 and back on the air with WFAN four months later.
Today, he’s as brash as ever behind the microphone on his afternoon show, “Carton and Roberts,” but off air, in his role as the face of sportsbook FanDuel’s efforts to combat problem gambling, he’s humble and contrite. He now has the loudest voice and biggest platform any problem gambler has ever had, …….