Just when it looked like the NFL was going to supplant the NBA in the negative public relations wars, the NBA fires a retaliatory salvo today. A gamblers worst fears realized:
July 20, 2007 N.Y. Post-- THE FBI is investigating an NBA referee who allegedly was betting on basketball games - including ones he was officiating during the past two seasons - as part of an organized-crime probe in the Big Apple, The Post has learned.
The investigation, which began more than a year ago, is zeroing in on blockbuster allegations that the referee was making calls that affected the point spread to guarantee that he - and the hoods who had their hooks in him - cashed in on large bets.
Federal agents are set to arrest the referee and a cadre of mobsters and their associates who lined their pockets, sources said.
"These are dangerous people [the referee] was involved with," a source said.
One source close to the probe counted the number of games on which the ref and his wiseguy buddies scored windfalls in the "double digits."
NBA Commissioner David Stern is aware of the investigation and has a report about the referee on his desk, another source said.
The official, whose name was withheld, allegedly wagered on games during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 NBA seasons.
James Margolin, an FBI spokesman, declined comment on the latest black eye for professional sports.
The sources indicated the referee apparently had a gambling problem, slipped into debt and fell prey to mob thugs.
"That's how he got himself into this predicament" by wagering with mob-connected bookies, one source said.
Professional basketball has remained largely unscathed by allegations of game-fixing, although college basketball has been rocked by several scandals involving point-shaving by players, but not officials.
One of the most recent was a Boston College point-shaving scam arranged in the 1980s by mobster Henry Hill, who bribed several players. Hill later became a government informant, and his life was depicted in the movie "GoodFellas."
Having a referee in their pockets provides a two-fold bonanza to game fixers.
Gamblers would be able to directly cash in by betting on games where they knew the point spread was compromised.
But having a ref in their pocket could prove even more lucrative to crooks in a bookmaking syndicate.
Bookmakers hope to encourage an equal amount of betting on each team and make their money on the "vigorish," which is typically 10 percent of a losing bet.
But armed with the inside information, the bookmaking syndicate could set an artificial point spread that would encourage large "layoff" bets from other bookies carrying too much action on one team, that were likely now to lose.
An FBI organized-crime squad in the bureau's flagship New York office is handling the case, but the referee traveled the country officiating various games on which he allegedly bet.
It was not determined which games were allegedly affected by the referee's actions, or how much money may have been won by him and his cohorts.
The FBI got wind of the scheme while conducting a separate mob investigation.
The most prominent American sport- gambling scandal in recent history involved Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose, who was banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on his own team.
Based largely on testimony of two Rose associates, Ron Peters and Paul Janszen, Major League Baseball determined that from 1985 through 1987, Rose bet on baseball, including 52 Reds games in 1987, at a minimum of $10,000 a game.
All of Rose's bets on Cincinnati were to win.