Sport and betting go hand-in-hand -- more than $1 billion was wagered on this yearâ€™s Super Bowl. And tens of millions will be spent on office pools next month during March Madness. A lot of that money will be lost to casinos and betting sites.
But what if gambling money went to a worthy cause?
We're not just talking about how state lotteries fund education, either.
Dave Maloney and Marc Hodulich want to provide fans with a whole new betting experience, where money fans gamble on sporting events goes to a cause more noble than lunch money and pride.
Their new venture, CharityBets, allows those wagering on sporting events to produce charitable donations simultaneously.
"We expect to be entertained and it make us feel really good when our team wins," says Maloney. "But society doesn't progress. Problems arenâ€™t closer to being solved. I think society is ready for a new deal with sports and CharityBets elevates the stakes of an athletic contest. To 'win' means more."
So Maloney and Hodulich are assembling a roster of Olympic hopefuls for the Summer Games in London who will allow gamblers to bet on whether theyâ€™ll make the Olympic trials in Oregon in June, with all money going to the charity of the athleteâ€™s choice.
"Picture this -- two athletes coming down the homestretch in the Olympic Games," says Maloney. "One athlete is running for a gold medal. The other is running for a gold medal and has $10,000,000 on the line for pediatric cancer research. The social impact of that second athlete is enormous."
The Olympic hopefuls who've signed up with Charitybets.com so far include Meb Keflezighi, Walter Dix, Justin Gatlin, and Khadevis Robinson.
Maloney and Hodulich met in 1998 as long distance runners as members of Auburn University's track team.
"We trained together and competed in the same events -- 800m and 1,500m -- and took turns beating each other," says Maloney. "Marc often won, but I cherish a VHS tape I still have of a meet broadcast on Fox Sports where I beat him. Itâ€™s nice to have some video evidence."
They were bonded by running and the fact that both of their mothers survived breast cancer. A friendship and a mutual commitment to charity work was forged.
After college graduation, they both wound up in New York City with jobs in the financial sector, and in 2009 they created a fundraising competition called The Decathlon to crown "Wall Streetâ€™s Best Athlete." One competitor had a donor construct an algorithm -- on his own volition -- that populated a donation amount based upon how many dips he completed. "Performance-based donating" was born.
"On event-day, Withrow's dips was all we cared about," Maloney says. "After the event, Bloomberg reported the results, but still focused on Withrow and his dips -- even though he didnâ€™t win -- because of the money riding on his performance."
Soon after, Maloney and Hodulich came up with "CharityBets."
"The Decathlon competitors don't ask for donations, they earn them. When each pull-up is worth $1,000 you go until you truly fail," says Hodulich. "Finishing isn't good enough."
Now in its third year, "The Decathlon" saw 71 participants last October raise more than $500,000 for Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in one afternoon.
In addition to their plans for the Olympics, Maloney and Hodulich are focusing on creating relationships with amateur athletic events like CrossFit and Spartan Race
"Right now, few people care if the top finishing Ohio-resident running the Akron Marathon finishes in under 2 hours and 30 minutes," Maloney says. "But what if you could bet on it with the beneficiary being the Cleveland Clinic? And there was, let's say $50,000 riding on it? Thatâ€™s what CharityBets can deliver."
Maloney and Hodulich think corporations will embrace their idea, too. Will fans? Hard to say. There's nothing quite like being right and taking money from a pal or casino.
But then again, there's nothing like being right and giving back.
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