Think that last free throw was meaningless for Duke as it beat Utah in the Sweet 16? Thousands of gamblers in Las Vegas disagree.
The free throw allowed the top-seeded Blue Devils to cover a 5-point spread on Friday night, topping the Utes by 6 at 63-57 and flipping wagers on a game many thought was already over.
Luckily for gamblers, it appears most were backing Duke, laying 5 points at Las Vegas sports books operated by Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and the Wynn Las Vegas.
That bet was looking OK for wagers on the No. 5 seed Utah as the game was wrapping up. The buzzer had sounded, and the players had already even finished their customary postgame handshake. Some Utah players were already heading off the court.
Done deal, right? Not quite. The whistle sounded.
The officials had reviewed a call and determined that Utah, which was trying to foul, had successfully done so with 0.6 seconds left on the clock.
The score at that moment was 62-57, a would-be push on bets taken at a 5-point spread, and a loss for some Duke bettors who gave up 5 1/2 points.
Quinn Cook missed the first free throw, then made the second to finish the game at 63-57. Six point margin, Duke covers.
It’s not immediately clear how much money swung on the free throw, but casinos appeared to be on the losing end. According to wager reports compiled by Pregame.com, nearly three-fourths of spread bettors were backing Duke on Friday night, with nearly 108,000 wagers on the game.
In gambling parlance, the outcome is what’s known as a backdoor cover — determined in the final moments of the game, and often meaningless to the outcome of the game itself. It happens frequently enough, though certainly gets noticed more in bigger moments.
In 2013, Ohio State covered the spread against Northwestern after a fumble recovery in the end zone in the final moments, shifting about $100 million in bets.
In 2012, Las Vegas oddsmakers estimated $300 million or more changed hands worldwide when a controversial call from a replacement referee used during a labor dispute decided a Monday night NFL game between the Packers and Seahawks. Officials determined that Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had simultaneous possession with Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, giving the Seahawks a touchdown on the game’s final play and a 14-12 win.
AP Basketball Writer Stephen Hawkins in Houston contributed to this report.
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