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Betting integrity in question after Louisiana Tech football

22nd November, 16:08

LAS VEGAS -- Investigations by multiple authorities have been launched into the Louisiana Tech football program's delayed announcement of the suspension of three players and the line movement ahead of last Friday's 31-10 loss at Marshall, a source close to the situation has told the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN).

Louisiana Tech, which lost its season opener at Texas, had won eight straight games and was atop Conference USA's West Division. Marshall, leading Conference USA's East Division, went from a two-point home favorite earlier in the week to 4¹/₂-point favorites by early Thursday morning when VSiN host Pauly Howard first reported on the "Follow the Money" program that a "trusted source" had told him on Wednesday that several Louisiana Tech players would be suspended, including quarterback J'mar Smith, who has completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,483 yards with 14 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

The problem is that the Louisiana Tech athletic department did not announce the suspensions until Thursday night, so the questions for investigators are: Why didn't the school make the news public earlier? Who knew about the suspensions? Did school administrators (or people they told) place any wagers with that inside information?

Westgate SuperBook director John Murray said on Brent Musburger's "My Guys in the Desert" program on VSiN that sharp bettors were wagering on Marshall against the spread and on the money line (to win straight up) early in the week. Co-host Vinny Magliulo said the same thing happened at the South Point sportsbook. An added wrinkle is that since the Supreme Court overturned PASPA in 2017, legal sports betting is no longer restricted to just the state of Nevada, and there are sportsbooks in Louisiana's neighboring state of Mississippi.

Murray said Westgate adjusted the line to Marshall -7 after the suspensions were announced. Magliulo said the South Point went to -6¹/₂ and the line closed -6.

Integrity has been a hot topic since legalization, especially as the leagues have been trying to collect "integrity fees" out of sportsbooks' handles. The books have countered that they've been unpaid watchdogs for the leagues for years, including reporting suspicious betting activity that has exposed game fixes -- most notably the Arizona State men's basketball scandal of 1994.

The NCAA came under fire last year because of end-of-game baskets that weren't reviewed, and the NFL had a similar issue last week with the 49ers' touchdown on the Cardinals' desperate lateral play at the end of their game. The NBA is also dealing with how to handle announcements of players missing games due to "load management."

As for the Louisiana Tech situation, Magliulo said: "I think the NCAA could do well from the NFL policy of being more transparent. Integrity is at the forefront of what they want as an institution -- the NCAA and the professional leagues -- it's also at the forefront of what we want. To have the fullest level of integrity, you have to have transparency."

Matthew Holt, president of a sports-betting consulting firm U.S. Integrity, was on Musburger's program Wednesday.

"Part of the problem in the collegiate community is that there hasn't been a policy change from the NCAA since the 2003 'Don't Bet On It' campaign," Holt said. "Think of sports betting in the United States in 2003 and sports betting in the United States in 2019. Those are very different landscapes."

Holt said education and awareness are important to make sure players, coaches and anyone involved with teams deal properly with information such as injuries, suspensions, etc. " 'Don't Bet On It' said, 'Hey, we're oblivious to it' and we need to reform the policy and procedures," Holt said.

"Betting on these games is not going to go away," Musburger said "When there's a suspension, just announce it. So be it."