College b-ball cashes in

The NCAA believes that legal betting on college games is antithetical to the purity of its student athletes, yet allows colleges to accept advertising money from casinos. Hypocrisy? You be the judge. From USA Today:

From the $591 million in TV and marketing revenue generated this season to the masses awaiting Saturdays semifinals and Mondays championship game at Detroits Ford Field, the mens tournament and its Final Four have grown into a mega-event on the order of footballs Super Bowl. This year, the NCAA altered its Final Four seating plan to accommodate tens of thousands more ticket buyers, swelling the capacity to a record 70,000-plus and bumping gate receipts by $7 million from the 40,000- to 50,000-seat setups of the past.

Its an apt backdrop for a sometimes contentious debate within the NCAA and its more than 300 Division I schools: How far should the NCAA and its members go to boost revenue at a time when the nations fiscal crisis is weighing on college athletics?

Many schools, with the blessing of NCAA President Myles Brand, are courting an increasingly varied array of sponsors and advertisers and creating some discomfort in the process.

Several schools and conferences allow advertising and promotions by casinos in their arenas or game programs, a practice the NCAA once frowned upon because of gamblings potential threat to the integrity of its sports.

College athletes, in the name of amateurism, are strictly forbidden from cashing in on their renown beyond the scholarships they receive.

But today — as part of arrangements that can bring millions of dollars to their schools — theyre featured in game footage that increasingly shows up on the Internet alongside sponsors logos and products. And in basketball and football video games, the computer-generated likenesses of real-life, still-in-school stars are unmistakable.

NCAA, colleges pushing the envelope with sports marketing –

College basketball has become a big business, obviously. And there’s clearly plenty of betting on it. If you allow one association with gambling, such as advertising, you’re already giving the message that gambling is legitimate. So if it’s OK for followers of your program who are watching at home to shoot craps with your sponsor, what’s wrong about them putting $20 on your team to beat the spread?

Delaware to bet on sports?

Thanks to a legislative loophole, Delaware is one of only four states allowed to license legal sports betting. In a few months, you may be able to get action down legally in the Diamond State–with a few caveats. From the Philly Inquirer:

Atlantic City’s hopes of a gaming-industry rebound in 2009 might be about to take another hit, this time from a southwesterly direction.

When Delaware Gov.-elect Jack Markell and a new General Assembly take office next month, the legalization of sports betting is expected to be high on their "to-do" list. State lottery director Wayne Lemons said that with legislative approval, sports betting could be in business by the summer.

This, said one gambling-business analyst, certainly wont make things easier for Atlantic Citys 11 casinos, which have been reeling from the double-whammy of a trashed economy and increasing competition from Pennsylvania slots parlors.

However, suggested Joe Weinert, senior vice president of Linwood, N.J.-based Spectrum Gaming Group LLC, the blow probably will be more glancing than fatal.

"It will definitely be a negative for Atlantic City," said Weinert, especially among male customers. Sports betting, he offered, "will give them another excuse to gamble in Delaware."

As a result, he added: "It will be another dent in Atlantic Citys armor," but probably not severe enough to make an appreciable difference in the seaside casinos bottom lines.

That, Weinert said, is because of the nature of what is being proposed for Delaware. Unlike in Nevada, gamblers wont be able to place a bet on a single sporting event.

Instead, he said: "Youll have to place a parlay bet – a minimum of two bets. You can bet the Eagles to win by seven [points], but you also have to bet [on something like] Brian Westbrook rushing for 100 yards."

Delaware likely to OK sports betting | Philadelphia Daily News | 12/11/2008.

The lottery might have trouble running sports betting. Nevada casinos can do it because they have the rest of the gaming floor to carry them if bettors get lucky–like if the Giants win the SuperBowl. But what’s the lottery going to do? Go to the schools and ask them for money back?

Stats tell a different story

The official investigation might have given the Donaghy affair the all-clear, but the numbers seem to tell another story. From Jeff Haney at the LV Sun:

Throughout the saga of disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy, Las Vegas sports betting analyst R.J. Bell has done a thorough job of examining the scandal from a point-spread perspective.

An investigation ordered by NBA Commissioner David Stern and released Thursday found no evidence Donaghy made any calls to influence the outcome of games. It also found no evidence of any illegal activity by refs other than Donaghy.

Donaghy is serving a 15-month sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce.

The conclusions of the probe ordered by Stern run counter to “some extremely damning statistics” derived from studying point-spread moves, Bell claimed in his latest report on the controversy.

The first 15 games of the 2006-07 NBA season officiated by Donaghy that had point-spread moves of at least 1 1/2 points were undefeated in favor of the line move, meaning bettors on the side of the line move cashed all 15 times. The odds of that occurring randomly are greater than 32,000-1, Bell pointed out.

“To conclude Donaghy did not fix the games, you have to believe that a person troubled enough to provide inside information to criminals was able to referee games in which he had a financial interest without any bias,” according to Bell, proprietor of the locally based betting Web site

Bell’s research also showed that 10 games officiated by referee Scott Foster during the period in question had moves in the betting line of 2 points or more. Again, in those 10 games, bettors on the side of the line move cashed every time.

Analyst cites ‘damning statistics’ against ref

THIS is the kind of analysis that needs to be done–similar to what Stephen Levitt wrote regarding sumo wrestlers in Freakonomics.

And, from this reading, the evidence seems to be clear: when heavy betting dictated a line shift, the shifting money was undefeated. That seems pretty conclusive. I wonder what the NBA things of this number crunching?

Or is it a case of willful blindness? Unless someone pushes this, I’m guessing that no one at the league has any incentive to continue the investigation.

Now I’m just speculating here, and this is hardly a legal opinion, but could losing bettors in those games have a class action suit against the NBA? If their employees conspired to fix games and caused them to lose money, do they have any redress against the league? Do the casinos, who had to pay out winning bets on games that might have been fixed? I haven’t heard anyone mention this yet, so it may be the dumbest idea ever. But I wonder if anyone else thinks this could be possible.

Sporrts betting rampage

Jeff Haney over at the LV Sun’s had a bad run with Vegas sports books recently. In his latest column, he comes just short of calling for an immediate ban on all sports betting. Here’s the apex of the piece:

My opinion of elected public officials places them slightly below Saturday morning scamdicapper slime on the human evolutionary scale, so I harbor no high hopes they’re capable of taking any meaningful action against unethical sports books.

Still, I wonder if there are any Nevada politicians who:

A grasp at least the rudiments of sports betting and therefore understand why the conduct of Boyd Gaming is ethically reprehensible, and B are not in the pocket of Big Gaming.

I fully realize the odds against that particular two-team parlay coming in are astronomical.

Time for something drastic? – Las Vegas Sun

Even a sports book manager would have to admit that’s good writing.

Monsoon wagering

I and pretty much anyone else who’s ever seriously studied gambling have often said that people will bet on anything. Some proof to support that contention? I offer into evidence the $1.2 billion Indians reportedly bet on monsoons each year. From Online Casino Advisory:

Itinerant traders spread the tradition of monsoon betting in the 1800s; British authorities banned the practice in 1890. The ban worked as well as most prohibition, which is to say, not at all.

Bookies allow monsoon gambling among established clientele to prevent detection by law enforcement. Yet, even with this restriction on play, it is estimated that over $1.2 billion is wagered each year on the monsoon.

Asked the attraction on gambling on the weather, one player pointed out that there is no danger of a fix. Sports gamblers familiar with recent NBA news understand this observation well.

This year the monsoon came earlier than anytime in over a hundred years, raking in profits for bookies. Still, there was a silver lining to all concerned: the early rain signals a bountiful harvest, after a period of poor crop growth. Food supplies both locally and internationally will be positively effected.

Gambling on Rain in India Big Business

I’ll disagree with the contention that “there’s no danger of a fix.” If it’s gambling, there’s a way to rig it. You could, for example, fudge the results from the weather station. You could also take bets and not pay out the winners.

My headline is a riff on Monsoon Wedding, which seemed to be better than trying to invent a pun with monsoon and gambling.

Also, my apologies on inflicting this obviously-not-AP-style prose on you. The kernel of the story is interesting, but the way it’s written is, like something you’ve left in the fridge a week too long, a little off. Is it the over-use of the passive tense? The absence of any quote or any attribution for the information? The fact that only the top third of the jpg loads? It’s all of these, and more.

Since I’m teaching non-fiction writing this summer, I’m attuned to these kinds of deficiencies. Seriously, if any of my students read this, this article is a perfect illustration of what not to do.

I’ve got a philosophical quibble, too. The closing line of the article says that we must remember that gambling is an ancient tradition. I’m assuming, from the context, that the author is a gambling advocate and is using this fact–tradition–to bolster his argument that gambling is good.

I don’t think that tradition by itself is a justification for anything. Lots of things have a long tradition: slavery, misogyny, tribal warfare, wine in a box. That doesn’t necessarily make them something to strive for.

Gambling’s long history isn’t a reason to embrace it. Rather, it’s an illustration of the enduring appeal that it has. Because gambling is popular, it has been around for a long time–not vice versa.

Sports betting do-over in AC?

I could write a book about the short-sighted/self-defeating things that have kept Atlantic City from becoming a truly great resort. Knowing me, I probably will some day. If I do, there will be a chapter about the NJ legislature’s baffling failure to approve sports betting before the feds closed the window in 1993. Back then, I was still just a college kid, but I thought passing on sports betting was brutally stupid. Fifteen years later, it turns out I was right, and the state legislature is asking for a do-over. From the AC Press:

A bill to get sports betting in Atlantic City casinos cleared the Assembly on Thursday, even though Republicans and some Senate supporters pointed out that federal law still bars the practice.

The bill would seek voter approval in November to legalize in-person wagers on professional sports in special Atlantic City casino parlors. The bill heads to the Senate following Thursday’s 57-17 vote, with one abstention.

If signed into law and if voters approve the move, then supporters say the state would challenge the federal government in court by arguing the wager ban was an overreach of Congress’ constitutional powers to regulate commerce between states.

“This is something that will be done in Atlantic City, in New Jersey,” Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, said after the vote. “There won’t be any interstate commerce to regulate.” He also said new federal leaders could be elected in November who favors sports wagers.

But state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said in a statement that the state lawmakers alone cannot make it happen. “I believe New Jersey voters would support having state-regulated sports betting in casinos, but I don’t want to create false hopes,” Whelan said.

The state’s chance to legalize sports betting all but died when it did not pass legislation by a 1993 federal deadline. Currently sports bets are legal in Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon.

Bill backers said sports betting would boost resort casinos, which because of competition, a weak economy and a partial smoking ban saw revenue fall 5.7 percent in 2007, the first-ever drop in three decades of legalized gambling.

Assembly OKs move toward sports betting in Atlantic City

You’ve got the problem with Atlantic City in a nutshell here. Nobody does anything until its too late. Instead of anticipating the future and changing course to better adapt, you just bury your head in the sand (after getting rid of all the cats) and refuse to confront change. Then, when reality smacks you out of your willful ignorance, you blame everyone but yourself.

Only a fool couldn’t have seen back in 1993 that casino proliferation was going to continue, and that sports betting would help Atlantic City differentiate itself.

Here’s a hypothetical: You’re going on a road trip with a friend/loved one/new hire, let’s say driving from San Diego up to Las Vegas. You stop in San Bernardino and say, “We’ve still got a long way to go, so if you want to eat something you’d better get it here. I don’t want to stop again until we get into town.” Your friend demurs, and you get into your car and keep on heading north on I-15. Then once you’ve hit that dead zone between Barstow and Baker, your friend starts complaining that they’re desperately hungry and want to stop and get something to eat immediately. Problem is, there’s no place to go. In this analogy, the need for revenues is represented by food, and your non-gender specific friend is the NJ legislature. I don’t want to be accused of being cryptic or anything.

So I wish them the best of luck in passing this, but it shouldn’t have come to this in the first place.

Gambling ref pleads guilty

Tim Donaghy, the NBA ref accused of gambling on games that he refereed, has plead guilty. From USA Today:

The Boston Celtics, favored by four points, faced the 76ers in Philadelphia on Dec. 13 and won 101-81 in what seemed to be just another NBA blowout featuring bad Atlantic Division teams.

On or about the same date in Pennsylvania, an NBA referee assigned to that game had spoken in code with someone by phone to give him his pick for what NBA team to bet on. The next day, that “top-tier” referee, Tim Donaghy, met with gambling associates in Pennsylvania to pick up his cash payment for the pick.

On or about Dec. 26, Donaghy made a similar call to give another pick. That night he worked the Memphis Grizzlies-Wizards game in Washington, won 116-101 by the 7½-point favorite home team.

And on or about March 11 of this year, Donaghy met with a man in Toronto and got a cash payment. That night he worked the game won by the 6½-point favorite Raptors 120-119 vs. the Seattle SuperSonics.

In a court very different from where he once worked, Donaghy, 40, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two felony charges in the gambling scandal that has stunned the sports world. Released on $250,000 bond from federal court in Brooklyn, he faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 9 for conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting betting information through interstate commerce.

“Some of my picks included games I had been assigned to referee,” Donaghy said. It is not known if he made officiating calls during the game to help the team he predicted would win.

The “rogue” referee, as NBA Commissioner David Stern described Donaghy, must pay a $500,000 fine and at least $30,000 in restitution.

Former ref Donaghy details his gambling deception –

As with the Tocchet case, I would hope that some good can come out of what is an awful situation for everyone involved–namely, a serious discussion of the relationship between gambling and sports. But, since this is just a “rogue” referee, I guess we won’t be hearing too much more about gambling and sports—until the next “isolated incident” erupts into scandal.

NBA ref gambling scandal

This might put the kabosh on plans to bring an NBA franchise to Las Vegas…or not. An NBA ref has reportedly used his position to influence the outcome of games he had action on. From UPI:

An NBA referee is reportedly under investigation by U.S. authorities for allegedly fixing games over the past two seasons, the New York Post said Friday.

The newspaper’s report said the National Basketball Association was aware of the investigation but had been requested by the FBI not to comment.

The investigation allegedly involved members of New York’s organized crime community to whom the unidentified referee owed money because of a gambling problem. The Post said the referee allegedly made calls to affect the outcome of games he was betting on. The number of affected games was said to be “in the double digits.”

The FBI’s yearlong investigation was concluding and arrests were expected soon, the report said.
United Press International – NewsTrack – Sports – Report: NBA ref probed for gambling

That’s about the biggest crime you can pull in sports today–fixing games damages the credibility of the league itself.

That being said, it doesn’t look like this case has anything to do with legal sports betting. If the ref was in debt to New York’s “organized crime community” (what a euphemism!), he was probably betting with an illegal bookie to start with.

Still, it’s a bad way for the words “NBA” and “gambling” to be seen in the same sentence. I’m not sure this will hurt Mayor Goodman’s efforts to bring a team here, but it certainly won’t help.

New LVBP article is elementary

Well, it’s a few days old, but you can still read it in the Las Vegas Business Press. Here’s a tease:

It’s often said that college athletes get the star treatment because they are, well, stars. When 100,000 people pack a stadium to hear a talk on Joyce’s use of light and dark imagery in “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, they say, then English departments will get the acclaim — and funding — that football programs do.

Indeed, right here in Las Vegas, it’s plain to see that college sports are far more popular than academics. More than a decade removed from his stint as head coach of the Running Rebels, Jerry Tarkanian is still a public figure, even appearing in commercials. But what kind of name recognition does Wole Soyinka, a Nobel Laureate and true academic all-star, have among the general population? It’s doubtful you’ll see the acclaimed writer shilling used cars on your TV any time soon, because, despite his achievements, most people just don’t care.

Betting just might raise the profile of legitimate academics. If there is a line on a spelling bee — maybe the least useful test of intellect — imagine the kind of buzz that could be generated for college-level student achievement. How many students in PoliSci 102 will score over 90 on the final exam? What percentage of History 101 students will comprehend the professor’s explanation of the causes of the Civil War? The possibilities are endless.

Suddenly, the general public would have a reason to care about education (since preparing the next generation for the future is obviously not much of a draw). Organic chemistry and macroeconomics might elbow aside football and baseball as fan favorites. Academic departments could build huge arena/classrooms with the latest equipment. Maybe someone would finally discover Fermat’s Lost Theorem if there was an over/under on it.

Elementary, my dear Watson. Spelling that is

It’s another piece in the “modest proposal” vein, where I hope that by taking an idea to its logical conclusion, I can make people think about things in a different way. In this case, the idea is: what if people cared as much about education as they do about sports? I made the same point but hopefully a little better in a KNPR commentary that might have aired already.

You might remember a post a few weeks ago about the spelling bee. I really do find it compelling TV, and think it would be neat to try to televize other feats of academic achievement.

Then again, I thought that tivoing a Buck Rogers in the 25th Century marathon was a good idea. I can guarantee that most of those episodes are going to be deleted without being watched. I thought I’d get things off on the right foot by watching the episode where Gary Coleman guest stars as a boy genius cryogenically frozen in the 20th century and awoken in the 25th to become the president of a planet. Although it was a whimsical notion, the uninspired plot and bare-bones budget really killed most of the enjoyment. It’s not quite bad enough to fall into the “so bad it’s good” category, a la “Manos:” The Hands of Fate or anything by Ed Wood.

There is some funny stuff, though. The headquarters of the Earth Defense Directorate, apparently, are in the 1-bedroom apartment of Dr. Elias Huer. Seriously–you never see any kind of control room, or galactic senate–just a viewscreen in his room. And the wedding celebrations for Princess Ardala (who has a tantalizing array of metal bikinis, at least) and Buck featured entertainment by a quarter of roller skaters! It definitely dates the action to the late 1970s, in an almost endearing way.

All this is just my roundabout way of saying that I’m acutely aware that my taste in TV might not be for everyone, so I doubt that we’ll be seeing History 101 final exams broadcast on ESPN2 anytime soon.

You can watch, but you can’t bet

Here in the US, we are relatively insulated from World Cup fever. But in most of the world, passions run high, and the tournament is a holiday of sorts. Even religious devotion takes a backseat to “football,” to a point. From the Chicago Tribune:

The chief of Cambodia’s Buddhist monks is cutting his charges some slack for the duration of the World Cup: They may watch the matches on television, but no cheering or getting excited. (Much like U.S. fans on Monday). And absolutely no betting. The country’s holy men — more than 90 percent of Cambodia’s 13 million people are Buddhist — normally aren’t supposed to watch TV, movies or artistic displays. But Supreme Patriarch Non Ngeth is willing to make allowances for such a special occasion as the World Cup. “The monks can watch the games on TV but they may not bet on the games,” Non Ngeth said. “So far, I have received some complaints that some monks are betting during this World Cup tournament.” According to the strictest tenets of Buddhism, monks should abstain from pleasurable activity. Gambling is a major no-no. He also says he urged the country’s monks, if they do watch the matches, not to scream or laugh. “Cheering or screaming while watching TV are acts appropriate for children,” he said.

No cheering–or gambling–in the temple | Chicago Tribune

Somehow, “a major no-no” sounds a lot less serious than “a mortal sin.”