Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Updated: July 26, 12:18 PM ET
Are other leagues safe from gambling by officials?
At his televised news conference on Tuesday, NBA commissioner David Stern presented a lengthy list of safeguards the league had in place to prevent the sort of disgrace brought on in the last week by a federal investigation of suspected gambling by a referee.
The safeguards, clearly, weren't fail-safe.
"I can't believe it's happening to us," Stern said about the alleged gambling by referee Tim Donaghy on games he officiated.
Among other firewalls the NBA thought would protect it from gambling scandals are the presence in the league office of security representatives with experience in the FBI, the Secret Service, the U.S. Army, the New York Police Department and New York State Police Investigation. The league, Stern said, maintains constant communication with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. It subjects its referees to extensive security checks, and it retains a security rep in Las Vegas to monitor unusual movements or trends on betting on NBA games in that city's legal sports books.
It wasn't enough.
"We've been comparing our procedures to see whether there are other leagues that we want to, you know, despite our competitive spirit, that actually do it better than we do," Stern said at his press conference, "whether there's things we can adapt, etcetera, because we take our covenant very seriously."
Are those other leagues any more or less secure against a gambling scandal than the NBA was? Could it happen in football, or in baseball, or at the college level?
ESPN.com informally canvassed a number of other sports leagues and organizations about their safeguards. Here are their responses.
Major League Baseball
• Rule 21 (The Pete Rose Rule) is posted in every major league clubhouse, as a reminder that umpires, players and other employees face a lifetime suspension for betting on games they're involved in, or a one-year banishment for betting on games they're not involved in. Umpires are also handed a bulletin outlining the specifics of Rule 21 before each season.
• During every offseason, as part of the umpires' annual retreat, MLB security officials make a presentation that lays out the dangers of getting involved, in any way, with members of the gambling community -- and how even small personal associations can lead to bigger, more ominous consequences.
• MLB monitors baseball gambling trends to look for irregularities.
• Umpires are warned about, and scrutinized for, potential associations with gamblers and other illegal activity.
National Football League
Every official is graded on every play of every game. All officials undergo background checks coming into the league, and every 3-4 years thereafter. And the NFL's security department maintains widespread contacts in the gambling and law enforcement communities to stay abreast of what is going on.
This is the language that addresses gambling from the NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement, most recently extended last season through 2012:
• Officials may not engage in any type of gambling activity (including betting money or anything of value) relating to the outcome or score of any league game or the outcome of any Divisional or Conference standings.
• Officials may not accept a bribe or agree to throw or fix any league game or fail to report promptly to the Commissioner any such activity, or knowingly associate with anyone involved in such activities.
• NFL SEASON: At any time during the NFL season (preseason-Pro Bowl) , NFL officials may not enter a horse or dog race track or a gambling casino; or bet on any game, or any other sporting event.
• CALENDAR YEAR: At any time during the calendar year, NFL officials may not bet on any team sport; or associate with any persons determined by NFL security officials and identified to the NFLRA [National Football League Referees Association] as gamblers; or speak at any engagement or other promotional activities in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or any other cities where in-house casinos are located, if the official's name or likeness is used in connection with or in association with gambling.
• REPORTING OBLIGATION: During the off-season, an NFL official who enters a horse or dog race track, or a gambling casino shall, at the latest, report such activity within 24 hours of its occurrence.
And this is the language concerning violations of the league's gambling policy:
• An official who enters into a race track or a gambling casino during season for the first time is subject to discipline up to and including a maximum of a one-game suspension. A subsequent offense will subject an official to more severe discipline.
• An official who gambles on a team sport at any time during the year will be immediately terminated.
• An official who violates the reporting obligation for the first time is subject to discipline up to and including a maximum fine of $1,000. A subsequent offense will subject an official to more severe discipline up to and including suspension.
• The NCAA produces a video that is provided to each of the officials selected for the NCAA championship. The video warns of the dangers of gambling.
• All officials eligible to be selected to work the championship are subject to random, thorough background checks.
• There are security and operational plans for officials, which the NCAA does not discuss publicly.
• The NCAA works with law enforcement authorities on the local, state and federal levels in the handling of any inquiries, concerns or issues, should any arise.
• The NCAA does not bring the referees who work the national title game into the city until the day of the game. The NCAA used to bring them in for the weekend, but they didn't want the referees to be exposed, visible and have everyone know who they are prior to the title game.
• Officials are also subject to extensive background checks.
Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)
• The ATP signed a memorandum of understanding with Betfair in the U.K. and with the European Sports Security Association in which information can be shared in case there are any suspect gambling patterns.
• Brought in Michael Franzese, a former Mafia boss in the Colombo crime family, to speak to athletes about the dangers of gambling and sports corruption.
• Checks and balances on officiating are in place through the nature of the line umpire and chair umpire relationship and their responsibilities. Also, introduction of electronic review at big events provides another safeguard for the integrity of the match.
Women's Tennis Association (ATP)
Here is the language provided by the WTA:
The WTA Tour has zero tolerance for gambling and gambling-related corruption. The Tour seeks to detect and deter such activity in a variety of ways:
1. Comprehensive Anti-Corruption Code. The WTA Tour has a comprehensive anti-corruption rule that prohibits gambling and gambling-related activity on all forms of tennis, not just WTA tennis. The Anti-Corruption code covers players and their support teams (coaches, agents, family members), as well as officials and staff. Possible penalties for violation include lifetime suspension from the WTA Tour, a fine of up to $100,000 and the repayment of all proceeds of gambling and gambling-related misconduct.
2. Information-Sharing Agreements. The WTA Tour has information-sharing agreements with multiple betting regulators. Such agreements create a confidential network of oversight over gambling on WTA tennis and are designed to provide the WTA with notice of irregular betting activity when it occurs.
3. Performance Reviews of Officials. The WTA Tour conducts regular, periodic performance reviews of its umpires and other officials to monitor the quality and consistency of their officiating. The WTA also has been a leader in the implementation of electronic review of officials' line-calling decisions, providing a further layer of oversight and all but eliminating subjectivity from officiating where it is employed.
4. Investigation and Prosecution. The WTA Tour is committed to the investigation and prosecution of corruption offenses when warranted.