If you bet on pee-wee football, seek help from an addiction specialist.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Pee-wee players take the field in the morning, as parents and young siblings are scattered through the stands. But as day turns to night, and the boys on the field get bigger and older, the crowd grows and the atmosphere begins to shift.
Groups of men in their 20s and 30s fill the stands and sidelines, to the point where passers-by must jostle for space as they walk along fences separating the bleachers from the field. And then something else becomes obvious: Wads of bills start switching hands; cheers and fist pumps are followed by exchanges of money; and men debate how much to put down next time. Marijuana smoke is often in the air, and adults walk around with cups of alcohol seemingly without concern.
An “Outside the Lines” investigation found such scenes several times last fall in the South Florida Youth Football League, which is made up of 30,000 children ages 5 to 15 from Palm Beach to Miami. In the packed crowds, OTL producers saw men holding stacks of bills — often in large denominations — as they watched the games. Using hidden cameras, OTL recorded the men openly exchanging money with one another, even as they were just a few feet away from a uniformed police officer in one instance. But the exchange of money in the stands was the small stuff, OTL found — sometimes the games had tens of thousands of dollars bet on them, and players were often paid for making big plays.