Definition – PhilsFan

Sports betting has been around for centuries, with people placing wagers on the outcomes of sporting events since ancient times. In recent years, the rise of online sports betting has made it easier than ever for people to place bets on their favorite teams and athletes. However, with the increase in popularity of sports betting comes a darker side: the potential for referees and players to manipulate the outcomes of games for their own financial gain.

In an article named Sports betting in the United States, by John Wolohan, Sports betting has a long history in the United States, with gambling on sporting events dating back to the early 1900s. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that sports betting became more widespread and organized. In 1961, the federal government passed the Wire Act, which made it illegal to use wire communication facilities to transmit bets or gambling information across state lines. Despite this law, sports betting continued to grow, particularly with the rise of online sportsbooks in the 1990s.

However, the legality of sports betting in the United States has been a contentious issue. In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed, which prohibited sports betting in all states except for Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana. This law remained in effect until 2018, when the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, ruling that it violated the Tenth Amendment.

Since then, several states have legalized sports betting, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi, with many more states expected to follow suit. The legalization of sports betting has led to increased scrutiny of the industry, particularly with regard to potential match-fixing and corruption.

There have been numerous instances of match-fixing and corruption in US sports, particularly in college sports. In 1951, the infamous CCNY point-shaving scandal rocked college basketball, with several players and gamblers being arrested for conspiring to fix games. Since then, there have been numerous other instances of match-fixing in college sports, as well as in professional sports.

At the college level, sports betting is particularly problematic. Many college athletes are not paid for their participation in sports, and as a result, they may be more susceptible to the temptation of making money by manipulating game outcomes. Additionally, college referees may be more easily swayed by bribes or other incentives, as they are often not professional officials with established careers and salaries.

One of the most common forms of game manipulation in college sports is point shaving. Point shaving occurs when a player intentionally misses shots or commits turnovers in order to keep the score of the game closer than it would be otherwise. This allows bettors who have placed bets on the underdog to win their wagers, even if the underdog does not actually win the game. Referees can also engage in point-shaving by making calls that favor one team over the other, thus affecting the outcome of the game.

In recent years, there have been growing concerns about the integrity of professional sports, particularly in regard to sports officials and referees. It is believed that these individuals, who have the power to influence the outcomes of sporting events, maybe manipulate games for their own financial gain. This problem is not just limited to professional leagues, but also extends to college sports, as evidenced by a study conducted by Justin Wolfers in an article and study named A Test of the Widespread-Point-Shaving Theory.

In his study, Wolfers examined data to determine the prevalence of point shaving in NCAA basketball. Point shaving is a form of sports betting in which a player or players deliberately underperform in a game in order to affect the final score and ensure that the point spread is met. This allows bettors to win their bets even if the team they wagered on did not win the game outright. Wolfers found that strong favorites, who were previously believed to be the most likely candidates to engage in point shaving, may actually be the least likely. He proposed that a shift in coaching strategy late in blowout games explains the anomalous bet outcome distribution patterns. In other words, coaches may choose to pull their star players out of the game and give playing time to their bench players to avoid injury or fatigue, which can lead to lower point differentials and a failure to cover the spread.

Despite this explanation, Wolfers suggests that widespread point shaving still causes the phenomenon of favorites in NCAA basketball winning but failing to cover the spread at a rate significantly greater than expected. In fact, he found that players on the strongest favorites appear to be the least likely to have fixed prior games. This could be due to the fact that these players have less incentive to participate in point shaving since their teams are already heavily favored to win.

While Wolfers’ study focuses specifically on NCAA basketball, it highlights a broader issue within the world of sports – the potential for individuals to manipulate games for their own financial gain. Sports officials and referees hold a great deal of power and influence over the outcomes of games, and if they are found to be engaging in unethical behavior, it can have serious consequences for the integrity of the sport.

In conclusion, the issue of sports officials and referees manipulating the outcomes of professional sporting events for their own financial gain is a complex and multifaceted one. The prevalence of point-shaving in college basketball, as well as instances of match-fixing and corruption in professional sports, highlights the need for increased oversight and transparency in the sports industry. It is clear that the lure of financial gain can be too great for some officials and players to resist, leading to unfair outcomes and a loss of trust from fans. As sports betting continues to grow in popularity and legality, it is crucial that steps are taken to ensure the integrity of sporting events and prevent any unethical practices from taking place. Only then can we ensure that the sports we love remain a fair and honest competition.

Borghesi, R., & Dare, W. (2009). A test of the widespread-point-shaving theory. Finance Research Letters, 6(3), 115-121. 10.1016/

Wolohan, J. T. (2009). Sports betting in the United States. The International Sports Law Journal, (3-4), 124+.

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