Refs hitting Vegas where it hurts

BY Peter Schrager • September 20, 2012

The tweets have been coming in fast and furiously. Everyone from Conan O’Brien to Rick Reilly is having a field day with the replacement refs. Mike Periera’s a hotter talk-show guest than Jennifer Aniston these days. Every talk-radio show wants him on so the best-dressed man in sports can talk about the officiating.

And yet, the NFL’s TV ratings are higher than ever, jerseys still are being bought and the average fan has no problem staying up until 1 in the morning to see if Roddy White gets that one more catch to win him his fantasy league.

Regardless of the tweets, our guy Pereira’s busy radio schedule and the potential for a very serious injury, it appears as though Roger Goodell has "dug his heels in" and isn’t budging any time soon.

Though the NFL and the league office might not be feeling the ill effects of the replacement officials, the giant elephant in the room sure is. Las Vegas is trying to adjust to them, while those who traditionally place big bets are staying away.

I’ve got a friend — a corporate attorney (naturally) — who asked to remain nameless. Though the league office would likely choose to ignore his hobby, my guy — let’s call him “Mr. X” — likes to wager on football games. Said wagers are rather large.

“It’s taken a lot of willpower,” he said with a laugh when I asked him whether he’s seen any impact on his wallet because of the use of replacement officials, “but I’ve resisted betting big until I’ve seen some trends. Those trends are starting to play out now. It’s time to get involved.”

The biggest one? The home-field advantage.

“If home teams keep getting the better calls, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more action coming in on the home teams,” said Dave Mason of

“In Week 2, alone, the home teams were 11-4-1 against the spread. This weekend, there are eight home underdogs and, yet, the public money appears to be betting against seven of those eight home dogs. We’ll see. Something to keep an eye on as the weeks go on.”

Home teams were 11-4-1 against the spread last week, but 14-2 straight up. The two home losses came from the Patriots and Jaguars. Such a wide disparity has led many to assume that the officials are being swayed by hostile home crowds.

“Let’s give it another week,” Mr. X said. “But if there’s another wide disparity, you better believe we’ll all be jumping all over that. Of course, the rub there is that the Vegas books and local bookies will adjust to that.”

They haven’t yet.

Another thing bettors are keeping an eye on this week is the over/under totals. With the no-huddle offenses keeping defenses on their toes and passing yards on the rise, scoring is at an all-time high.

RJ Bell, the spokesperson for, said: “There have been 43 pass-interference penalties after two weeks of play. The prior three seasons averaged only 24 pass-inference penalties after two weeks. That’s a 79 percent increase. This ‘different’ approach to calling the game is seemingly contributing to additional scoring. Bettors are betting accordingly.”

According to Bell, last season the average over/under total (i.e., projected points) was 43.7 per game. The average over/under total this week is 46.1 points, an average of 2.4 more points expected by Vegas per game. The 738 combined points being projected by Las Vegas for the Week 3 games are the most points ever projected by Vegas for one week of NFL football.

“Offensive linemen are holding, and they’re not calling anything. The QBs are sitting in the pocket for days and just picking defenses apart,” Mr. X said. “Again, give me one more week. If the offenses all go wild again, you better believe I’m riding the home teams and the overs moving forward.”

The replacement officials aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Nor is gambling on football.

The gambling community is just trying to figure what it all means on the fly.