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Gaming Guru

Matt Youmans

Referee scandal aftermath: Oddsmaker's new line: helping NBA

30 July 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- In the past, NBA commissioner David Stern always was arrogant when he spoke of Las Vegas' sports books. His attitude could change now that he has been humbled and needs to reach out for help.

Blindsided by a gambling scandal, the NBA front office needs answers and is getting an assist from Ken White, oddsmaker and chief operating officer for Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

White has been researching betting trends involving former referee Tim Donaghy, who allegedly wagered on and conspired to fix the outcome of NBA games he officiated during the past two seasons.

Eventually, the league might seek a formal consulting arrangement from LVSC.

"We are going to try to work something out so we can work together," White said. "We're looking to build that relationship, and of course we'll turn over anything we find to the NBA and the FBI.

"We want to make sure if something like this happens in the future, we catch it early, and that's the NBA's hope."

Art Manteris, vice president of sports book operations for Station Casinos, has served as a consultant to the league on a variety of issues for the past 10 years. He said he recommended White and other colleagues to the NBA for consulting work.

"I think highly of Kenny, a talented guy and a very conscientious guy," Manteris said. "He's in a very unique position to provide some good ideas and good oversight of the issues we're discussing.

"The message that we as an industry need to send is we're on the same side as the NBA and law enforcement in how to protect the game."

White said he is willing to be a watchdog for the NBA despite it being a tricky position.

Only a small percentage of sports wagering is done in Nevada. In the wake of almost every point-shaving case, however, some politicians and other similarly uninformed people point to Las Vegas as the source of evil because it promotes legal wagering.

"We talk about us being the watchdog because we're willing to swing that double-edged sword," White said. "Illegal bookmakers would never speak up."

Manteris said he has reported "nothing substantial" to the NBA in his time as a consultant. He also said Stern and his associates are "much more knowledgeable about our industry than most people realize."

The wagering activity alleged in the Donaghy case apparently was done through illegal and offshore bookmakers, going undetected by industry insiders in Las Vegas.

White is aiming to provide the NBA with accurate information on which games might have been compromised by Donaghy and how gamblers profited.

"I'm going to report to the NBA first and give them a chance to go over the data," said White, who hopes soon to make his findings public.

He said he has discovered a 20-2 trend in games officiated by Donaghy and that the point spread moved 1 1/2 points or more in 20 percent of Donaghy's games. But simply looking at the opening and closing line is not enough, because a game could open at 7, move to 8 1/2 and close at 7.

"There are reports out there about games moving 1 1/2 points or more, and maybe they are moving, but they're not the most important games," White said.

"It looks like (Donaghy) has been able to manipulate the point total and manipulate how many free throws were shot."

Donaghy's games ranked fourth in the NBA in most total points (201.2 per game), and part of White's research includes comparing every official's tendencies.

Depending on whose line is used, different trends can be found. The timing of certain wagers is also critical to White's analysis.

"There are so many variables," he said. "We're researching it very closely."