So, get this: Apparently some people actually bet on sports! And when Monday night's Packers-Seahawks game ended with a controversial call that appeared to give the win to exactly the wrong team, hundreds of millions of dollars wagered on the game flowed in a different direction! And believe it or not, that might make some people a little angry!
Anytime a decisive play alters the ending of a game -- a last-second field goal, a walkoff homer, a miracle chip from off the green -- some gamblers win and some lose. That's the nature of the business, of course. But it's predicated on the idea that such occurrences are natural, acceptable (if insanely frustrating) costs of doing business.
What drives gamblers insane is the possibility that what happened on the field doesn't show up in the final score, and that's apparently the case from Monday night's game. When Russell Wilson lofted his final pass, Green Bay was ahead by five, covering a spread of 3 1/2. When Golden Tate got at least a hand on the ball, apparently enough to consider it a touchdown in the eyes of a referee, that gave Seattle the win both on the field and against the spread. Boom: instant reversal.
So how much money are we talking here? ESPN.com quotes John Avello, director of The Wynn Las Vegas' sports book, as saying the total in play could have been $150 million. Online gambling officials pegged the number at a staggering quarter-billion dollars.
At least one sports book has apparently decided to sidestep the controversy by refunding the losers their money in the form of a free play, according to NESN. Sportsbook.com took the unusual step because, as one company official put it, "I can't stand winning unfairly so I am going to give the punters their money back."
Will it pressure other outlets to do so? Perhaps, but that of course isn't the real issue here. Nor are the ethics of gambling in general. When the NFL loses its perception of integrity, when the games come across as (best-case scenario) so incompetently managed that legitimate betting is impossible, this is far beyond a simple labor problem. This is now about the foundation of the league itself.
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