Updated on 09/16/2011 8:09AM

No lights, then no joy for Badger bettors


A lot of bettors were in the dark even before the lights went out at Sam Boyd Stadium, site of the UNLV-Wisconsin football game last Saturday night. And when a lot of them were shown the light back in the sports books, they had to be shown the door.

Let's set the scene:

Wisconsin was rolling over UNLV, 27-7, with 7:41 remaining in the game when electricity to the stadium was cut off. UNLV police say a car crashed into a nearby transformer, knocking out two of the three power lines to the stadium.

Play was halted, and the emergency lighting system turned on three minutes later. However, after discussing the situation with the athletic directors and coaches (John Robinson wears both hats for UNLV), it was determined that there wasn't enough light to continue and that full power wasn't going to be restored. The referee called the game, and the final score went into the books as 27-7.

It was a strange occurrence, but most people initially took it in stride because the game was well in hand with UNLV showing no signs of mounting a comeback. But the situation wasn't so cut-and-dried as far as the betting on the game was concerned.

Wisconsin had opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite early last week, and the local professional bettors bet it down to 3. As the week went on, the money came in on the Badgers, who were bet up to at least -5 1/2 everywhere, with a few books even going to 6, 6 1/2 and some briefly to 7 before the Badgers were bet back down. A lot of that money on the Badgers came from the thousands of fans and alumni who were visiting from Wisconsin (an estimated 15,000 of the sold-out crowd of 42,075 were Badger fans).

After the game, they went back to the casinos to pick up their winnings and continue their celebration.

But they were in for a surprise.

House rules, which are posted in every Las Vegas sports book (although most people don't bother to read them), clearly state that for a college or pro football game to be official it must last 55 minutes. So, because the game ended 2 minutes and 41 seconds short of that threshold, the books ruled that all bets - with the exception of first-half wagers - were to be refunded.

Wisconsin fans didn't want to hear the logical explanation, and many caused a scene. Security had to be called to several sports books as irate bettors were using abusive language, and there were even instances of people throwing beer bottles.

Conspiracy theories popped up right away, both in the sports books and in online chat rooms at sports betting sites: Did a car really hit a transformer, or was it a cover-up because Vegas was going to lose so much money? Did the driver have a UNLV ticket in his pocket?

None of the conspiracy theorists offered an iota of proof, and as of Monday morning, police hadn't released any information on the accident, so the mystery remains.

Financially, the sports books did make out well with the game being shortened. Most of the money bet on the game was on the point spread - on the Wisconsin side - though the books would have made some of that money back on the total, which was bet up from 54 to as high as 58. But it was costly in the amount of ill will felt by those customers who thought they got the shaft and would surely go back home and tell their friends.

Contrary to what a lot of bettors were thinking, this isn't only a Las Vegas rule. Nearly all offshore sports books also honor the 55-minute rule. One notable exception is sportsinteraction.com, which declares football games official at halftime for sides and at the end of 60 minutes for totals.

Early look at next week

Again this year, I'll be reporting the opening line moves from the Stardust, which puts up the first lines in Vegas for the following weekend's games. The Stardust allows bettors who wager at least $1,000 to register for the "lottery" and then does a random drawing to determine the order in which they'll be able to bet.

Each bettor then heads to the window with a suitcase of cash, casino chips, or winning tickets, and takes a crack at the opening numbers. The Stardust then adjusts the lines - generally after taking $5,000 on a college game or $10,000 on an NFL game. The Stardust usually moves the line a full point, unless the line is near a key number (such as 3, 4, 6, 7, or 10).

After the big bettors are done pounding the lines into shape, the Stardust releases the lines to the general public.

The lottery for this weekend's college games was held Sunday at 3:15 p.m. Pacific time (after the Virginia Tech-LSU game and as the Louisville-Kentucky game got underway). The Stardust had its numbers up before the offshore books in the Caribbean, so the initial moves don't involve any arbitragers.

It's interesting to note that the wise guys went against several teams that had impressive performances last weekend (Wisconsin, Air Force, Colorado State, Miami-Ohio), though it's probably more of an indictment against the teams they beat.

Iowa was bet up from -5 to -6, but after the lottery was bet back down to -5 1/2. UCLA's line went from -6 to -6 1/2 vs. Colorado State, but was later bet up to 7, then another bettor bet it back down to -6 1/2 and then it went back to -7 again.

With the NFL preseason ending last Friday, the Stardust put up its week 1 numbers on Saturday, but didn't hold a lottery. Here are the "unofficial" early line moves for the week 1 games: 49ers from -2 1/ 2 to -3 vs. the Giants on Thursday night; Cardinals from +8 to +7 (even-money) vs. the Redskins; Bears from -4 to -4 1/2 vs. the Vikings; and the Rams from -2 to -3 (even-money) vs. the Broncos.

Starting next week, the lottery will be held at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sundays, after the kickoff of the night game.