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August 1, 2014

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Controversial call results in $15 million swing at Nevada sports books

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Ted S. Warren / AP

Green Bay Packers Seattle Seahawks in the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in Seattle.

Seahawks Stun Pack

Officials signal after Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate pulled in a last-second pass for a touchdown from quarterback Russell Wilson to defeat the Green Bay Packers 14-12 in an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in Seattle. The touchdown call stood after review. Launch slideshow »

With three decades in the sports handicapping industry, Jimmy Vaccaro, one of Nevada’s top bookmakers, has never seen anything like this.

The controversial ending to the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers not only made Seattle the winners on the field, it gave them the victory at Las Vegas sports books, thanks to an apparent blown call by officials.

The result, as estimated by Vaccaro, was a $15 million dollar swing at Nevada books.

“You think I would have seen it all (after all these years),” said Vaccaro, the public relations director at William Hill race and sports book. “But, no, I haven’t seen a call like that.”

John Avello, director of the race and sports book at the Wynn, told ESPN that the global swing was as much as $150 million.

Green Bay closed as a 3.5-point betting favorite at Vaccaro’s William Hill sports book and was covering with a 12-7 advantage until the last play of the game.

That’s when Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. Receiver Golden Tate wrestled the ball away from Green Bay defender M.D. Jennings as both landed in the end zone.

One referee signaled the play dead, apparently in preparation to call either an interception. The other signaled touchdown.

Cue the mayhem.

The play resulted in a disputed touchdown, a call that was still being debated Tuesday morning.

The referees working the game were replacement officials — and they badly blew the call, according to several television analysts.

The Packers and their fans weren’t the only losers Monday night.

In Las Vegas, people who lost bets aren’t going to get their money back, Vaccaro said. Conversely, those who won bets won’t be chased down to give the money back.

“I guess you can consider that a bad beat if you had the Packers and a good win if you had Seattle,” Vaccaro said. “You make a bet before the game starts; you never know what the conclusion will be.”

Vaccaro said that while the $15 million swing is a significant amount of money, it’s a relatively small figure in comparison to other games booked last weekend.

The San Francisco 49ers were seven-point favorites at the Minnesota Vikings and bet by gamblers on straight bets and parlay and teaser cards, Vaccaro said. A disputed finish in that game, where Vacarro estimated 90 percent of the money was on San Francisco, would have caused a bigger uproar in Las Vegas.

“That would have been a major decision, a monster swing for the sports books in Nevada,” he said.

While the outcome burned some bettors, Vacarro doesn’t anticipate a decline in business in future weeks. Bad beats are part of handicapping.

“If it were the regular referees, it would have died down by now,” he said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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