Bookies Behaving Badly 8: Rogue Ref’s Bookies Almost Brought Down NBA

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
Jan/04/2016
Bookies Behaving Badly 8: Rogue Ref’s Bookies Almost Brought Down NBA

When bookies behave badly, it's usually by ripping off their customers, through a variety of schemes, scams and outright thefts.

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Offshore/online bookies such as Steve Schillinger and Jay Cohen of World Sports Exchange, Allen Ross of Island Casino and Gary Kaplan of NASA Sports are among the misbehavers who immediately come to mind, and among those whose stories have been told--or will be told--as part of Gambling 911's continuing series "Bookies Behaving Badly."

But perhaps the worst behavior ever by any bookies was what was done by James Battista and Thomas Martino.

Who?

You may know them better as the bookies for Tim Donaghy.

Yes, that Tim Donaghy, the former NBA referee who gave inside information on NBA games to Mob-connected bookmakers in exchange for money, so the bookies could bet big on the games and clean up.

Which they did, at least for a while.

But in the end, the whole thing blew up into a major betting scandal for the NBA, with Donaghy and the bookies ending up in prison.

And the scandal almost destroying the NBA.

Donaghy, from suburban Philadelphia, was a veteran NBA referee when, in 2005, he was approached by a couple of Mob-connected high school friends with an idea to make easy money: the ref would give inside info on NBA games to the pals, who were bookies, and they would make bets using the info and give Donaghy a cut of the profits.

Donaghy, among other things, revealed to them what refereeing crews would be working what games--information that was kept secret from the public until just before game time but was useful to bettors because certain crews called more fouls, which led to higher scoring games--and winning bets when betting over the total in those games.

Donaghy also had good insight into which teams would cover the pointspread in certain games, usually games in which he refereed, because he could call extra fouls on one team or the other, depending on who he needed to score to cover the spread.

In addition, Donaghy made wagers himself with his bookie pals on many NBA games, including some he refereed.

The whole scheme unraveled in 2007, when in an unconnected investigation into the Mob by the FBI, wiretaps picked up mentions of an NBA ref on the take and the FBI notified the NBA.

It was a major scandal for the NBA, and for a while threatened the integrity and the future of the league, as fans and the general public questioned whether there were more game-fixing refs in the league and whether the results of games were pure.

Then-NBA commissioner David Stern assured everyone that Donaghy was a lone "rogue" referee and the league upped its monitoring of its refs and eventually the scandal blew over.

But it was a pair of bookies behaving badly--Battista and Martino--who originated the scam and who almost brought down the NBA, forever tainting the league and its refs.

By Tom Somach

Gambling 911 Staff Writer

tomsomach@yahoo.com

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