Flyers star doesn't think he has gambling problem

Updated: August 17, 2004, 12:42 PM ET news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers star Jeremy Roenick paid more than $100,000 to a Florida firm that made millions selling betting tips to gamblers, law enforcement officials told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Jeremy Roenick

Roenick was never the target of an investigation and was not involved in any illegal activity, said Lee County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Johnston, who worked with the FBI on an investigation of the firm.

In an interview with the newspaper for Sunday's editions, Roenick said he was a client of National Sports Consultants and had bet on sports for years. But Roenick said he had paid the Fort Myers firm much less for tips, with total bets between $50,000 and $100,000.

Roenick told the Inquirer that he was "only human."

"I enjoyed it, but I don't think I had a problem," Roenick said. "I shut it off cold turkey."

Investigators said they found no evidence that Roenick bet on hockey.

The NHL has begun its own investigation into Roenick. Bill Daly, the NHL's executive vice president and chief legal officer, told the Inquirer on Monday that the league was following up on what was reported by the newspaper.

"If they are as reported, then there is nothing Jeremy Roenick did that was in violation of the league's policy," Daly told the Inquirer.

Roenick said he stopped gambling in January after a warning from Flyers general manager Bob Clarke, who had heard that Roenick was betting on sports. The Inquirer reported Sunday that because the Flyers didn't think Roenick had done anything illegal, the matter was kept in-house. Roenick said the Flyers did not know about his association with the tip service.

A Flyers spokesman said on Sunday the team was declining comment until it had all the facts.

Messages left Sunday by The Associated Press with Roenick's agent and Johnston were not immediately returned.

Roenick's name was discovered during an investigation of the firm. Eleven of the firm's handicappers have pleaded guilty to federal gambling charges that they falsely claimed to have inside information about games and took kickbacks from offshore Internet casinos.

Johnston said only that Roenick's bets were all made within the year prior to the operation's closing.

Unlike the NFL, the NHL does not ban players from betting on team sports -- other than hockey -- or associating with gamblers. Six of the firm's touts told the newspaper that Roenick paid for tips on football and basketball.

Roenick, a forward who played with the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes before joining the Flyers in 2001, is to earn $7 million next season.

"People should just understand that gambling is dangerous and you can get hurt from it," he said. "I learned the hard way."

At the same time, Roenick told the Inquirer on Sunday that, just because he's an elite, million-dollar athlete, people shouldn't deify him.

"People look at athletes and celebrities and think they can't do anything wrong," Roenick said. "Everybody can do something that is detrimental to them -- detrimental to who they are or what they are about.

"We're human. Just because I play a sport doesn't make me superhuman.

"I make the wrong decisions, too. It's important, if you make the right decision, to stop and realize you've done something wrong. Then that takes a good person, too. I hope people understand that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.