weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Suspicious betting on UNLV football game reported to sportsbooks

Updated December 7, 2023 - 4:32 pm

Las Vegas sportsbooks received alerts of suspicious betting activity on UNLV’s football game at New Mexico last month.

The Rebels opened as low as 9-point favorites and the line shot up as high as 16½ before UNLV rolled to a 56-14 victory over the Lobos on Nov. 4.

The Rebels scored touchdowns on their first five possessions en route to a 35-7 halftime lead and cruised to the win and cover.

Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay said his book received an alert before the game from U.S. Integrity, an independent sports wagering monitor based in Henderson.

A Caesars Sportsbook spokesman said “U.S. Integrity alerted the entire industry.”

“We didn’t see any suspicious activity on that particular game,” Kornegay said. “We didn’t have any unknowns coming to the counter asking for large amounts or any new accounts that bet on that game.

“It’s worth looking into. If we would have had new accounts that only bet on the UNLV game, that would be a red flag for us.”

U.S. Integrity co-founder and CEO Matthew Holt declined comment.

“Can’t comment on an ongoing investigation,” Holt said in a text message.

The company monitors betting activity for more than 150 clients in 36 states, including the Mountain West conference.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board wouldn’t confirm or deny an investigation into the matter.

“As a standard regulatory practice, the Nevada Gaming Control Board does not comment on confidential investigatory matters, including whether an investigation is or is not occurring,” the NGCB said in a statement to the Review-Journal.

A bettor at the BetMGM sportsbook at the Bellagio placed a $200,000 wager to win $181,000 on the Rebels -13 over the Lobos.

“That’s definitely the biggest UNLV bet I have ever seen,” The Mirage sportsbook manager Scott Shelton told the RJ before the game in a direct message on X.

An MGM official in Las Vegas did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

UNLV football said it won’t issue a statement because, “It does not involve UNLV.”

But Rebels coach Barry Odom told the Action Network that he didn’t suspect anything unusual during the game in which UNLV scored a season-high 56 points.

“It was a game we took control of early, but looking back, I don’t remember anything to cause me to believe (there was any wrongdoing),” Odom said. “I knew if we could score to open the second half, I felt like we could break open the game and take complete control.”

UNLV scored TDs on its first two possessions of the second half to extend its lead to 49-7.

New Mexico fumbles set up two of UNLV’s first four scores. The first fumble was on a bad snap on a punt, and the other was on a running play at the UNLV 33 that the Rebels recovered and returned 62 yards.

New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nunez told the Action Network that he was notified by U.S. Integrity a week after the game about the suspicious betting activity. He said he immediately spoke to the school’s football staff, and they said they had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

“The whole staff was adamant they didn’t see anything (suspicious regarding players’ performances),” Nunez said. “They were all pissed off we lost so bad.

“I know we got our ass beat, but we also got our butts beat in other games. I want people to understand — whatever happened, we are not associated with it. We looked around and looked into it, and there was nothing different (than any other game), except getting our ass kicked.”

Kornegay said it’s not common for a line to move that much, but that it does happen, whether due to a key player entering the transfer portal before an upcoming bowl game or a respected betting service giving out a top play.

“We went back and reviewed it, and we didn’t see anything drawing up red flags,” he said. “We did have a couple of respected handicappers that bet UNLV in the early going at 9½ and 10. But then it just started to run.

“We do believe that some of the top handicappers were ahead of the oddsmakers in the power rankings. It might have been a case of the Rebels were undervalued by the rankings, and it just took a few weeks before the market caught up.

“We did have some sharp, educated bettors that bet the other side.”

UNLV shattered its season win total of 4½ at sportsbooks by going 9-4, and it has one of the country’s top records against the spread at 10-3.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X. Reporter Andy Yamashita contributed to this story.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.