Bettor wins dispute over score change
Steven Frith said his Las Vegas weekend was ruined when a rare scoring change in a September USC-Utah football game swung the betting result in many sports books from the Utes to the Trojans.
But after weeks of haggling, the Folsom, Calif., resident and USC fan found sweet victory when the Nevada Gaming Control Board ruled in his favor. His $200 check arrived last week.
”I’ve lost plenty of money in casinos over the years,” Frith said. ”It seems only fair that they actually pay on the occasions I do win.”
Regulators had been taking calls from gamblers and casinos after Pac-12 Conference officials changed the score of the Sept. 10 game two hours after it ended.
Jerry Markling, enforcement chief with the gaming control board, said Monday he wasn’t aware of any other pending disputes about the game before the regulators. He couldn’t discuss the specifics of Frith’s case but said rulings are based on the house rules at the time.
USC ultimately won the game 23-14, scoring its last touchdown on the final play of the game when Matt Kalil blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt and Torin Harris returned it for a touchdown.
But the touchdown wasn’t counted in the box score at first because of an excessive celebration penalty USC committed when its bench poured out onto the field to celebrate the block and the win. Right after the game, the score was given as 17-14.
USC was favored by roughly 8.5 points in most sports books in Sin City.
Two hours after the game, the Pac-12 said the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are dead ball fouls by rule, but this one was automatically declined by rule because the game ended.
The conference then clarified its stance two days later, saying the referees on the field called the play properly.
”There was a miscommunication between the officials and the press box that led to the confusion about the final score,” Tony Corrente, Pac-12 coordinator of football officiating, said in a statement.
Normally, the change wouldn’t have meant much. But in the betting world, it caused major concern as USC bettors who had scrapped their tickets or thought they were losers found themselves poring over the technicalities of house rules, trying to see how their casino was supposed to handle the situation.
Frith said he spent Saturday night and Sunday trying to persuade officials at the Aria Resort & Casino to pay his second half wager on USC, which looked sour for the first two hours after the game. He had rushed to wager $110 to win $100 after missing on USC in the first half.
Jay Rood, race and sports book director for MGM Resorts International, which operates the Aria, said at the time that his company’s policy is to not recognize scores that are changed based on overturned rulings. But he said Monday that the betting operation was abiding by the regulators’ guidance.
At the Las Vegas Hilton, the sports book stopped paying Utah bettors and started paying USC bettors when the change was made, Race and Sports Executive Director Jay Kornegay said.
Other books, including those owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., stuck with the 17-14 score that was originally given because their house rules dictate that the score on the field when the game ends is the result that gets paid, said Todd Fuhrman, a sports analyst with Caesars.
Markling, a veteran regulator in a state that’s seen its share of unusual betting implications for strange game outcomes, said he can’t recall any situation like this. But he says it’s not clear — or relevant to the state — whether casinos won or lost money because of the USC-Utah score.
Meanwhile, Frith said he feels vindicated to get a little green back. But he’s still irked by the Aria sports book owners, MGM Resorts International, for the hassle.
”Next trip, I’ll avoid them,” he said.