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.

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.