This week’s Monday Night Football (MFN) game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers sparked intense debate over an incredibly controversial ending because of a series of terrible decisions by the replacement officials, the last of which changed the outcome of the game. These replacement NFL officials have not only created havoc for fans and those involved in the game, but they have also had an impact on sports betting. The Orland Sentinel explains:
Las Vegas casinos think this weekend’s NFL games will be the highest-scoring ever thanks to the league’s replacement officials.
Oddsmakers say casinos are changing their expectations as interim referees add new variables to the game, changing its pace and the approaches taken by players and coaches.
Sports books make money by encouraging balanced betting action; they get it by using point spreads to account for the advantage one team has over another.
However, the replacement refs situation goes beyond simple betting line changes in Vegas and in some cases, refunds to gamblers. As Casino Watch Focus has reported many times, the NFL takes a strong stance on gambling on their games. The most vocal reason for the NFL to so staunchly oppose such gambling is the integrity of the game. A recent decision by the NFL to begin working with casinos in advertising was criticized as being a sell-out position, but even then they attempted to bolster their opposition to sports gambling and their belief in maintaining the game’s integrity. Replacement referees represent a huge concern for the NFL as others are pointing out the possibility for outright corruption. USA Today explains:
Gambling experts from sports-book operators to university professors say the NFL’s replacement referee saga has produced an environment ripe for corruption.
Officiating on a game-by-game basis as the referee lockout continues, replacements have more incentive to throw a game for cash, says NFL handicapper R.J. Bell of pregame.com.
“One hundred thousand dollars to fix a game is a lot of money to the regular officials, but if you compare that to their potential career earnings it’s a very small amount of money,” says Bell. “With the replacements, even $20,000 to fix a game is more than they stand to make from the NFL in their entire lives.
The NFL maintains that they have the proper methods in place to prevent corruption and game-fixing scandals, but as USA Today points out, the integrity of the game has already been compromised by the hiring of an non-objective official:
In an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to address a perceived increased potential for corruption, but clarified that the league does “comprehensive” background checks on all officials, and they’re also subject to “random, unannounced” drug testing.
Yet the NFL’s background check didn’t stop a replacement official and proud Saints fan from being slated to officiate a Saints game last weekend before ESPN discovered the allegiance and the NFL pulled the plug on the assignment.
“That tells me they weren’t really screened out. These guys weren’t vetted,” says Dr. Timothy Fong, Co-Director of the Gambling Studies Program at UCLA, who interviewed former NBA referee Tim Donaghy in the wake of his corruption scandal. “I’d be fascinated to find out just how much time the NFL took to find out if these guys are at risk to be approached by organized crime.”
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