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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: When a Win Is Not a Win

Friday, September 16, 2011

When a Win Is Not a Win

Last Saturday, USC welcomed Utah into the Pac-12 with a victory that frustrated SC fans.  The Utes kept the game close by recovering 3 turnovers while losing 1.  One the last play of the game, Utah attempted a 41-yard field goal that was blocked by USC lineman Matt Kalil and returned by Torin Harris for a touchdown.  USC players rushed onto the field drawing an excessive celebration penalty, and apparently disallowing the touchdown.  For the next two hours, the score was given as USC 17, Utah 14.  The betting line in Las Vegas favored USC by 8.5 points.  SC failed to cover but that is wee the story begins because in Vegas a win is not a win.

Two hours after the game ended, the Pac-12 announced that a miscommunication between the press box and the officials caused an error in reporting the score.  Excessive celebration is a dead ball foul that is automatically declined by rule at the end of a game.  The final score was 23 to 14 and SC did cover. 

The casinos, who took in about $500,000 in bets mostly on Utah, were prepared.  They have house rules on bets for just such circumstances and the rules between casinos are different.  Some casinos pay based on the score reported at the end of the game.  They paid betters that took Utah.  Those who took SC and gave the points were not happy.  Other casinos pay according to the official score.  These casinos initially paid betters who took Utah but switched to paying out SC betters after the score was correctly reported.  At these casinos, betters were happy and the casinos took a bath.  Betters who, thinking that they had losing tickets, destroyed their tickets are hopping mad.   

Some unhappy betters who took SC and gave the points complained to the Nevada Gaming Commission.  Should the Commission establish rules of the (betting) game?  Should the Pac-12 or the NCAA establish reporting rules that better mesh with the gaming industry?

See also “Too late to bet on USC-Utah?” and “USC-Utah scoring change creates stir.”


  1. Randy Novak17/9/11 7:03 PM

    It is good to see USC getting some press in the news. The University of South Carolina is an up and coming program, especially with Garcia at QB. =)

  2. I don't think the PAC-12 nor the NCAA should establish rules to mesh to the gaming industry, because that is really not their concern. Yes, betting and sports go hand in hand, but the game will continue without the thousands of bets on the game's outcome every week. However, it is the Nevada Gaming Commission's responsibility to control or at least "handle" these situations in which betters feel cheated. The gamblers are the casinos customers, if the customers are unhappy they will stop betting at those particular casinos, causing loss of profit for the casino. I think the Commission needs to step in and maybe set up a schedule in which money is distributed 12 to 24 hours after the game ends in order to prevent this situation from happening again. In the future, if official calls are changed or scores are reported wrong there is a safety net for both the gamblers and casinos.

  3. While it may not be popular, and I may not personally think that it would be best for football long-term, it would seem as though the Pac-12 should institute rules that mesh with the gaming industry. This situation sounds somewhat parallel to what Economics Principle 7 talks about in regards to the government improving outcomes. For the most part, gambling can be good for college sports in that it attracts gamblers to bet and then watch games, thereby increasing game ratings and money for college football programs. Just like in private business people rely on the federal government to enforce the rules that are on the books, with regards to fraud, private property, etc. Just the same, gamblers who place bets on games and then watch games expect the referees, the conference (in this case Pac 12) and college football to adhere and enforce the rules at hand. In this situation that did not happen, so gamblers who should have lost those who picked Utah), and didn't are feeling like they got away with one and very well may not go back to the casino they placed their bet at for fear that the casino will demand its money back. Those who originally lost and later found out they won (those who picked USC to cover) are probably pretty happy right now, but in the time after the game were probably pretty upset and feeling as though they very easily could have been cheated out of money, thereby eroding confidence in the system. Those who did originally lose the bet and tore up their tickets, only to find out later that they did win the bet (those who picked USC to cover), justifiably feel as though they were cheated by the referees and conference not enforcing the rules and could have completely lost confidence in the system to uphold its rules. All three situations result not only in the casino losing money, but in gamblers losing confidence in the way the rules are upheld by the schools. This could easily result in them either giving up gambling or choosing to risk their money on something other than college football (black jack, roullette, etc.) which would mean that there is no longer an incentive for them to watch games, which would only result in college football losing money. The casino could lose money if gamblers quit gambling, but could keep the money if the gamblers simply switched to another game in the casino. College programs, and conferences, however, would only lose money by not enforcing their rules.

  4. kevin rhodes18/9/11 6:51 PM

    To care at all about how the gamblers feel regarding this issue is amazing to me. It was a football game that on any given Saturday and Sunday the score is influenced by a bad call. To say the gaming commission has any rights to help make rules that would be enforced on the field would be modern day mob bosses. The rules are there for a reason and they are obviously not easily understood but that doesn't hold the football teams, referees, or booth officials responsible for the Las vegas losing money. It is unfortunate that a legal established business lost money but we can chalk it up to them gambling on the rules of sports.

  5. I do not believe that the conference or the NCAA should bow to the demands of the gamblers. These people placed their money on the line and made just that, a gamble. Rules are rules and casinos are some of the strictest companies about making people follow the rules. Just like you can't pull back a mucked hand in Texas Hold'em once you see the flop, you can't claim a winning ticket at the sports book if you didn't win according to the casino's rules. I also do not believe that the NGC should dictate the rules for determining payout at the sports books in the casinos. The casinos have their individual rules and atmospheres and different people bet at different casinos for different reasons. If you don't like the rules or the way that casino pays out, there are several other options.

  6. The NCAA should have no affiliation with or make rules for any sort of gaming commission that would legally take bets on college athletics. Yah, it sucks that the scores were reported wrong, but I think that is a chance some have to take when gambling. Hence the use of the word "gambling". Sure we all know that behind the lines schools are ensuring they have the best players on their team, but to keep things legal in the world of college athletics, they should have no part in betting on games. That might just be my opinion.

  7. Fernando Zambrano18/9/11 10:57 PM

    I agree with Dani Law, this should have no effect on the Pac-12 or NCAA. College sports are far different from professional sports in a some areas and this is one. In the NFL, doing something in regards to a situation like this would be fitting. Those are professional athletes and men that get paid to play and viewers watch to get entertained; it's just a job for those athletes and the NFL is designed to make money. Whereas college sports involve a whole different perspective. Those athletes are young men and women who play for the pride of it and fight for school honor and because they love the sport or is their only way to get an education, none of them get paid openly. The NCAA was not established as a way to make money i don't think so for them to be involved in such a situation and adjust their rules to better suit gambling industries takes out of college sports. The Nevada Gaming Commission however should step in, this is their area. They are suppose to set the rules that make their consumers happy and make it the best scenario to keep it fair in situations like this. However, a gamble is a gamble and stuff like this happens when people participate, that is why it is called a gamble. Sometimes the gamble is not in just the outcome of the game but also in where you choose to gamble or how.