LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas oddsmakers say $300 million or more changed hands worldwide on a controversial referee call that decided the Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Sports book chief Jay Kornegay said Tuesday that bettors at The LVH casino registered shock, some celebration, then anger when the outcome swung the game in favor of Seahawks bettors.
“We’ve seen regular refs blow calls. That’s always been part of the sport,” Kornegay said. “But this one was just a blatant bad call at the end of the game that decided the outcome of the game.”
The Seahawks won 14-12 after referees ruled that Seattle receiver Golden Tate came down with the ball in a pile of bodies in the end zone after a Hail Mary pass on the game's last play.
The Glantz-Culver line for the game opened favoring the Packers by 4½. Had the final play been ruled an interception — as many players, analysts and fans believed was the right call — Green Bay would have won by 5 points.
The officials ruled on the field that Tate had simultaneous possession with Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, which counts as a reception. The NFL upheld the call on Tuesday.
“I’m not complaining, but it did feel a little dirty,” said Wesley Wong, 25, of Toronto, who said he had a combined $1,000 on the game on wagers on Seattle and a low scoring total.
Gambling expert RJ Bell of Las Vegas-based Pregame.com said an estimated two-thirds of bets worldwide were on the Packers, with about $150 million more bet on Green Bay than Seattle.
“Due to one call by the replacement refs, the bettors lost $150 million, and the bookie won $150 million for a total swing of $300 million on one debatably bad call,” Bell said.
Mike Colbert, head oddsmaker for Cantor Gaming, which runs seven sports books in Las Vegas and provides betting lines to 90 percent of Nevada’s casinos, said Cantor’s books took in about 20 percent more money in bets than usual for a Monday night game after a wild weekend.
Wong said he made a last-minute parlay bet on Seattle and the under to try to make up for losses on Sunday.
Colbert said that as an NFL fan, he felt for bettors who lost because of the play even though his sports books won money.
“When everything went down, I gotta tell you, I was absolutely sick to my stomach,” Colbert said.
Casinos had already begun to react to replacement officials before Week 3 began, predicting the most scoring ever across the league.
Now, adjustments for replacement referees that were only talked about previously are being factored into betting lines, Colbert said.
“We’ve seen it now,” Colbert said. “If we do see trends and we see bets, we’ll move more aggressively than we did in the past.”
Teams normally get a 3-point edge factored into the line when they play at home. That home edge could be worth a half-point more with games refereed by replacement officials, depending on the game, Colbert said. Colbert said he believed the Monday night referees got caught up in the excitement of Seattle’s home crowd.
“I’d be willing to make a big bet that if that game is in Green Bay, that play is overturned and they win it,” he said.
Bettors are also reacting. Wong said he’s wagering 20 percent less on NFL games than usual because of the unpredictability of the referees and other factors. He said his friends are cutting their bets in half or talking about avoiding NFL wagers for a few weeks if the replacement officials stay in.
“I’m willing to put less at risk at this point,” Wong said. “I’m not motivated to put that much on the table.”
Johnny Avello, race and sports director at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino, said plays — and mistakes — happen each week throughout the year that decide the outcomes of bets. But this moment was magnified, he said, because it happened at the end of the game and the call single-handedly decided the outcome.
“If you’re a bettor, it’s going to be hard to get over,” he said. “Some may back off, and that’s yet to be seen.”
Garcia reported from Honolulu. He can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia