After the most controversial call of the 2012 season cost the Green Bay Packers a win, I’m not afraid to ask the question everyone else is scared to ask:

Do any of these referees have wagers on the games?

Seriously, after watching in disbelief, the Seattle Seahawks walking out of CenturyLink Field with a 14-12 win over the Packers on a last-second touchdown that occurred on a “simultaneous catch” between Seattle receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, you’re telling me there’s no one else who wondered what I did?

The Packers, who were up by 5, and would have covered the 3-1/2 point spread. Instead, they lost outright.

Okay, it’s a bit far-fetched. I mean who really knew we’d have a pair of Hail Mary passes in Week 3; I know the refs can’t control what these games come down to. They didn’t know the Detroit Lions would be able to make a comeback in the final 20 second of regulation. And they certainly couldn’t have known what was going to take place in Seattle.

Still, after hearing about side judge Brian Stropolo being removed from the Saints-Panthers game in Week 2 after the league was made aware through Stropolo’s Facebook Page that he is a Saints fan, you have to wonder what other conflict of interests there might be with these substitute zebras. I mean, this dude was seen wearing Saints gear while tailgating at an Aug. 25 preseason game.

I’m sorry, but I’d love to run through the roster of roughly 130 replacement referees‘ social media pages, and scroll through timelines to see if I can find something regarding sports betting – even the garden variety comment. Cause, yeah, that’s a no-no.

You’re telling me you didn’t want to scream ‘What in the name of Tim Donaghy is going on here’ after:

  • Line judge Jeff Sadorus worked the Cardinals-Seahawks opener despite reportedly having been paid by the Seahawks in previous years to officiate in-season practices?
  • Referee Bruce Hermansen mistakenly gave the Seattle Seahawks a fourth timeout during the last minute of their Week 1 game against the Arizona Cardinals?
  • Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy told 94WIP, a Philadelphia radio station, that a replacement official said “McCoy, I need you for my fantasy team.”
  • Referee Ken Roan mistakenly allowed San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to use two replay challenges after his team had called all three of their timeouts?
  • And, after last night, side judge Lance Easley signaled touchdown at the end of the Seahawks-Packers game, while he and his colleagues failed to call offensive pass interference on the same play?

CHALLENGE IT! WHERE’S THE RED FLAG?

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not insinuating any monkey business. I’m not accusing any referee of wrongdoing. I’m just wondering when the red flag goes up, challenging much more than the integrity of the game.

David Salas, the deputy chief of the enforcement division at the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said he cannot comment from a professional standpoint on what he’s thought of the NFL refereeing thus far with replacement refs, as that is not the agency’s place to pass judgment.

“The fact is, right, wrong or indifferent, that is the official end of the football game,” Salas said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “That’s the official result. We’re not going to have any opinion.”

Though bookmakers around the world have their stories about Monday night, about disgruntled bettors, Salas said his agency hadn’t received one call as of Tuesday morning from anyone to indicate their displeasure with the NFL’s surrogate officials.

“Whatever the NFL does is between them and their customers,” Salas said. “The board is going to rely on the official results, the outcomes of the ball games. However they get there, outside of any wrong doing or criminal activity, we can’t alter those results or form an opinion.”

Salas said his division would “have to see a pattern, or concern from the NFL” in order to initiate an investigation on the state level, into any type of fixing of NFL games by the replacement referees.

Until then, Salas said: “There is no evidence of malfeasance or criminal activity.”

What is important to the board, according to Michael Lawton, a senior research analyst with the Gaming Control Board, is the bets keep rolling in.

“Our concern is how this might affect the handle,” Lawton said. “Are people going to stop betting? That’s the question. And we haven’t seen a pull back on wagers; in fact (the numbers) have been up.”

Lawton was quick to clarify that is purely on speculation, as there is no specific information on gaming wins or handle numbers reported through the first three weeks of September for football. That particular information is not provided to the Nevada Gaming Control Board until October, and then released to the public in November.

Salas added to that point: “We have no way of measuring how much money has come in (on a specific game). I just think it’s the board’s position that we want to have a competitive environment and sports betting to continue as it has.”

THE GOLD STANDARD

I personally contacted famed gambler Billy Walters, largely known as the most feared sports bettor in the world. And even though he declined to comment for this story, I do know Walters has always considered the NFL an organization that stood for the highest amount of integrity, calling it the ‘gold standard,’ if you will.

I turned to his 60 Minutes interview, just prior to the 2011 Super Bowl, remembering something he’d always made clear to me in the past, in that he felt the NFL – or, all sports for that matter – had much more integrity than Wall Street.

“I ran into a lot of bad guys, a lot of thieves, they’d steal the Lord’s Supper,” Walters said during the television interview. “But I can tell you, percentage-wise, I ran into many more with the suits and ties on, than I have with the gamblers.”

Longtime Las Vegas bookmaker John Avello, director of race and sports operations at the Wynn, said during a phone conversation he has a concern there’s a certain portion of the sports-betting population that will pack it in after last night’s debacle.

“If you bet (Monday) night’s game, would you continue to bet this week?” Avello asked.

Though he doesn’t think it’s going to affect the professional bettors, he does believe the swarms of general bettors who like to bet weekly simply for the love of the game could dwindle.

“I think the numbers have been good,” Avello said. “I can’t speak for the state; I can only speak for the Wynn. The handle has been good. Whether it’s up across the state I don’t know. I won’t say it’s down. It’s at least equivalent to last year.”

Although Walters engaged in lively conversation on other matters while we caught up on lost time, he neither denied nor confirmed whether he has been, or will be, betting on games involving replacement referees.

Avello weighed in on my theory of a potential conflict of interest situation, concerning any referees emerging with a betting interest on the game, saying “there are other red flags that may go up, patterns we may see. And there may always be conversations when things like this happen. But it’s not a concern at this time.”

Nevertheless, he also said he believes this could happen regardless of who is officiating the game. It’s not the type of referee who is on the field; it’s the character of the person refereeing the game.

“That could happen with not only replacement referees, but regular referees as well,” Avello said. “If you’re a bettor, you’re a bettor – you’re going to do it.”

Exactly.

This takes me back to my original question.

Do any of these referees have wagers on the games?

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Comments
  1. Benjamin Fraga says:

    a pattern is developing in the nfl with the excessive penalties being called, games are lasting longer and OVER the totals appear to be good bets each week…

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