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Monday, September 12, 2011
USC-Utah scoring change creates stir

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Sports bettors in Nevada are complaining to state gambling regulators over a scoring change in last weekend's USC-Utah football game that didn't affect the outcome, but swung the betting result in many sports books from the Utes to the Trojans.

Enforcement chief Jerry Markling of the Nevada Gaming Control Board told The Associated Press on Monday that regulators have been taking calls from gamblers and casinos and are trying to resolve disputes after Pac-12 officials changed the score of Saturday night's game two hours after it ended.

He said it's not yet clear whether any of the queries will become full-fledged complaints that the board will investigate and rule on, deciding whether individual bettors or the house should have won.

"In most cases, the house rules probably are sufficient," he said. "In some cases, they may not be and in those cases then we'll take it and conduct an investigation and make a determination."

USC ultimately won 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 on Sunday, 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.

Steven Frith, 29, of Folsom, Calif., said the wager ruined a long weekend trip to Las Vegas with his wife for a wedding because he spent Saturday night and Sunday trying to convince 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.

"It just seems like horrible customer service that this is what it came to," said Frith, who rushed to wager $110 to win $100 after missing on USC in the first half. "They're coming out looking really bad in this and I think it probably is going to end up costing them a lot more in the long run than just paying the tickets to begin with."

Frith said he planned to pursue his claim further in hopes of getting paid.

Jay Rood, race and sports book director for MGM Resorts International, which operates the Aria, said his company's policy is to not recognize scores that are changed based on overturned rulings.

"The loosey-gooseyness of it resides in the fact that our house rules don't match the house rules directly across the street," he said. "That's unfortunate -- it really comes to a glaring, obvious situation that maybe there needs to be some uniformity."

Rood said he sympathizes with bettors like Frith who feel they were wronged by the rules, but he said the casino company was rooting for USC to win so it would win money on the game.

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.

"If something is changed on game day, whether it's a score or a stat, we're obligated to change that number," Kornegay said. "But if it's something that changes after game day, then we do not recognize that change."

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..

"Had it been 23-14 on the field, we would have paid USC in the exact same fashion," Fuhrman said.

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.

Kornegay said he thinks the Pac-12 should have posted the score properly and immediately.

"It's unfortunate for the bettors and it's unfortunate for us," he said. "We're the ones that are paying it out both sides."

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AP sports writer Greg Beacham contributed to this report. Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia.