LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Allegations surfaced that coaches might be betting on youth football games.
Even in an 'anything goes' town like Las Vegas, it's not illegal, but it is extreme.
13 Investigates uncovered there could be wagers on games involving kids as young as 7-years-old.
Youth sports, especially for the little ones, is supposed to be about fun and exercise. A way to teach game fundamentals and life lessons.
But parents and some coaches are claiming foul play when it comes to youth football in Sin City.
No matter how small the feet on the field the determination is fierce the drive already developing. But at this young age, some question where the prioities lie.
"It's all about, 'I want to win,'" says one coach.
What could be a problematic new playbook in youth football, where a different kind of green, threatens the notions of sportsmanship, safety and fair play.
"We're going to use your kids to make money," an insider tells us. "We're going to bet on your kids."
"If you're betting on kids, what's your involvement in the league?" Deleon Davis, known as Coach D, has been coaching youth football for 15 years.
"What are you doing to win? What routes are you taking to win?" Coach D is also a parent and the only we spoke to who was willing to go on camera.
Many others who reached out to express concern about the betting activity feared retaliation. Several pulled their kids out of the sport before the end of last season.
"Youth football right now has changed," says one insider who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity--a source familiar with two youth football leagues in Las Vegas, the Nevada Youth Football League (NYFL) and the tackle football program at National Youth Sports - Nevada (NYS).
"It's very shocking and it's very embarrassing," the source says pointing to activity taking place in a closed Facebook group. "They're betting on their own team. They bet on other teams. You got coaches in both organizations. You got a bookie that also take bets."
The posts include comments such as, "200 ON THE 8U GAME. ANY TAKERS?" and "TMT 7U -20 UPON REQUEST. TAKING ALL BETS." (8U and 7U indicates under 8 and 7-years-old).
"It's not small betting. It goes into excess of $3000," the insider says. "And they also add point spreads. And these are coaches."
One coach posted: "I got 3k on the 14u money line Las Vegas Union vs Las Vegas Elite." (14U indicates under 14-years-old).
When we called the coach, he invoked what we're calling the "push-up defense" claiming the bets were not about money, but a push-up competition between coaches. When we pointed out the dollar figures in the posts, he declined to talk on-camera and hung up.
We examined several threads in the Facebook group that point to possible coach betting.
The one who appears to be a bookie writes, "U like Union 12UNDER -20?"
"Yep. I coach for em" replies a coach with the team.
We went to the leagues for answers. NYFL officials declined to talk on-camera, sending a statement instead:
"The JPS_NYFL has been made aware of allegations of coaches and parents gambling on youth sports. This type of conduct is disgusting and disheartening. The JPS_NYFL will conduct thorough investigations into any personnel who coach in our league and will handle accordingly."
The NYS did agree to talk about the problem on-camera.
Darcy: "What kind of image does betting on 7-year-old kids paint?"
Michael MacLeod, NYS Director of Business Operations: "A degenerate one, honestly."
Officials with NYS tell us they've investigated.
"We interviewed everyone that was involved," says MacLeod. "They said no money was exchanged. Their way of talking smack, or trash-talking, is setting a line. Like saying, 'l'm going to beat your team by 21' or whatever it might be."
Our inside source believes that's a cover up. "It's a money thing."
NYS admits it can't prove whether the betting is real or metaphorical. But says either way it's unacceptable and the solution involves coaching the coaches.
"Do I think it's real? Anything is possible, of course," says Ben Joffe, NYS Director of Operations . "For us it comes down to reacting in the best way we can now which is increased coach education. And it's not just hide it, it's, 'This is right. This is wrong.' And a reminder of what the best interest of our kids is."
"These coaches, they don't care about none of that no more," says Coach D.
Our insider claims to have witnessed coaches settling up their bets on the spot. "You got coaches that are collecting bets after the games. They will walk directly across the field and calling the other coaches out and exchanging money on the field."
Coach D says that crosses all sorts of lines, including safety.
"Next thing you know you got a 7u (under 7-years-old) game and they put in a like 9-year-old out there just to win the game and that 9-year-old cracks a kid, gets him hurt."
He says the culture of youth football is out of bounds.
"It's spiraling way out of control," says Coach D. " I mean, at the beginning of the season somebody was out there shooting a gun."
And in November, a massive brawl at an NYFL championship game between 7-year-olds.
"All these guys from Vegas Strong ran over there and started trampling over the kids. Parents. Coaches. Pushing kids. Pushing people out of the way. Trying to beat this guy up."
And if there's money on the line, many are saying someone needs to throw a flag.
"It might just be that we don't want believe it's actually happening because it's absurd," says MacLeod.
"There's certainly punishments that could happen on our end," says Joffe.
That could include expulsion from the league.
We tried to contact all the coaches who posted comments about betting but were unable to reach any others.