More than standing as the harshest indictment against the NFL's use of replacement officials, Monday night's meltdown in Seattle also burned a major contingent of the league's fan base — gamblers.
The controversial Hail Mary touchdown catch by Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate that swiped a victory from the Green Bay Packers also switched a sea of cash — estimated at $300 million worldwide — out of bettors' pockets and into the hands of Las Vegas casinos and illegal bookmakers.
"The estimates are $12 million to $15 million was bet on that game alone in Nevada, and seeing the action we saw, I'd say $10 million of that money was bet on the Packers," said Jay Kornegay, head of the Las Vegas Hilton Casino's race and sports book.
Green Bay was favored to win by between three and four points in Las Vegas books, and the Packers led 12-7 when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tossed a desperate fourth-down pass that Tate was ruled by replacement officials to have simultaneously caught with a defender for a touchdown.
That ruling, affirmed by a replay official and then by the NFL in a Tuesday statement, came despite an uncalled pass-interference penalty against Tate and the fact replays showed that Packers safety M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball. Seattle won, 14-12.
It was such a "bad beat," as Wynn Resort Race and Sports Book director John Avello said, that bettors may retreat from watching the NFL.
"You are left with a bad taste and may decide to quit until the real refs come back," Avello said. "If you lose on a fumble at the one-yard line, that's one thing, but to lose on an official's judgment call, there's a legitimate fear this kind of thing could continue with the same personnel out there. I can imagine some people taking a back seat."
A federal gambling commission previously had estimated that Las Vegas sports gambling represents no more than 2% of all sports gambling in the U.S. Offshore casinos also draw massive, but unaccounted, action worldwide.
One sports gambling expert, RJ Bell of pregame.com in Las Vegas, explained, "Worldwide, an estimated $150 million more was bet on Green Bay than Seattle. Due to one call by the replacement refs, the bettors lost $150 million, and the bookie won $150 million."
The officials' mistake sharpened Las Vegas' biggest bookmakers attention on the diminished quality of officiating in the NFL, a new dynamic in establishing point spreads and over/under points-scored totals.
"We are adjusting a little for it," said Jay Rood, head of MGM Resorts' 12 race and sports books in Nevada.
Kornegay said he's not adding points to spreads because home teams are typically favored by three points in toss-up games to account for home-field advantage. But Kornegay said he's aware home teams are faring well and he is "concerned the new refs are being influenced more than normal by the home crowd."
In the NFL's second week, home teams were 11-4-1 against the spread. They were 9-7 this past weekend. Home teams are favored in 10 of 15 games for Week 4.
Kornegay does not buy into theories advanced by other sports gambling figures that the average over/under of 46.1 points for Week 3 NFL games was a record high because of the inexperienced officials.
"It's because the game has progressed to more passing … the same reason quarterbacks are now the top picks over running backs in fantasy leagues," Kornegay said.
However, the officials, "are getting progressively worse," Kornegay said. "There's great inconsistency on both sides. … We're seeing late flags after the ranting and raving by players around a play, and from yelling on the sidelines."
Avello said bettors on the "wrong side" of Monday's game were subjected to an unforgiving roller coaster of sports book roars, from apparent interception, to touchdown signal, to awaiting the replay, to final decision.
"It's a scenario of emotions — and I've seen it from a lot of ways in my 25 years in the business — that I had never seen the extent of before last night," Avello said.
Brea's Greg Mascio, who collected a winning Seattle bet in Las Vegas, maintained a veteran gambler's stoicism toward an episode that has outraged so many.
"It's not the first time, and it won't be the last," Mascio said of the change in fortune. "Happens every week. Some more blatant than others.
"Betting the NFL is like betting boxing. You're at the mercy of the judges and referees. One decides it after the contest and one after every play. If you want the outcome to be 100% in the hands of the players, bet golf."