Sources: Officials Investigating Suspicious Betting Activity in UNLV vs. New Mexico Game

Sources: Officials Investigating Suspicious Betting Activity in UNLV vs. New Mexico Game article feature image

Sarah Glenn/Getty Images. Pictured: A New Mexico Lobos helmet.

LAS VEGAS — Gaming commission officials in multiple states are investigating last month’s UNLV at New Mexico game because of suspicious and/or abnormal betting activity against the Lobos, sources told Action Network.

UNLV opened as a 10.5-point favorite against New Mexico. By kickoff six days later, UNLV had ballooned to a 16.5-point favorite. The Rebels scored on their first five possessions and easily won, 56-14.

Hours before the Nov. 4 kickoff, an alert was sent out by a licensed independent integrity monitor regarding suspicious wagering on the game, sports betting operators told Action Network. The alert was triggered by a large U.S. sportsbook that first identified the abnormal betting activity.

The NCAA, Mountain West and New Mexico are aware of the ongoing investigations.

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Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission told Action Network it “did not find evidence that would indicate a pattern of suspicious wagering activity in the state of Iowa” on the game.

An official with the Nevada Gaming Control Board would not confirm or deny an ongoing investigation into the wagering activity on the game.

One of the concerns from sportsbook operators was the number of new accounts being created with the sole purpose of wagering on the UNLV-New Mexico game, sources said.

While not referring specifically to the UNLV-New Mexico game, SuperBook Sports executive director John Murray said this type of betting activity “would raise eyebrows.”

“It is suspicious to us when a new account signs up and they bet as much as they can on one event,” Murray said. “It’s not common to have a whole group of new players all betting on the same game. That would raise eyebrows. That’s why sportsbooks have limits.”

Last year, it was estimated there was between $25-$28 billion legally wagered on college sports in the United States.

“The reason this (UNLV-New Mexico game) is a huge deal is an average casino sportsbook may take $10,000 to $20,000 on an obscure game,” an industry source said. “This kind of money — and all on one team — raises multiple red flags. Now, imagine what those numbers would be across the entire United States.”

A week after the game, New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nuñez said he was notified by U.S. Integrity, which monitors gambling activity for the NCAA, about the suspicious betting activity.

Nuñez immediately spoke to UNM’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),” Nuñez told Action Network. “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.”

U.S. Integrity, which works with multiple conferences and schools to help monitor potential fraudulent betting activity, declined comment.

Nuñez fired New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales after the season. His decision was based on Gonzales’ 11-32 record in four years and not related to the investigation, he said.

“Danny’s firing had absolutely nothing to do with (the investigation),” Nuñez said. “If it did, I would have fired him for cause.”

NCAA officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The 56 points UNLV scored were the most allowed by the Lobos all season.

Four of UNLV’s first five touchdown drives (32, 30, five and 21 yards) were set up by Lobos mistakes. New Mexico fumbled four times, losing two. UNLV quarterback Jayden Maiava threw for 247 yards on only 13 completions, including a season-high three touchdowns.

UNLV head coach Barry Odom said he didn’t suspect anything unusual during the game. The Rebels led, 35-7, at halftime on their way to 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 told Action Network. "I knew if we could score to open the second half, I felt like we could break open the game and take complete control.”

After leading 35-7 at the break, UNLV scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter.

Ironically, on Tuesday at the Sports Business Journal’s Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, UNLV athletic director Erick Harper was part of a panel discussing how to protect schools from a sports wagering scandal.

Harper was not referring to the UNLV-New Mexico game, but in general, said the perception on social media can be skewed when players make mistakes or perform poorly.

“When you see someone miss a chip-shot field goal, the first thing that comes to mind for some people is he’s point shaving,” Harper said. “Well, he also missed a 20-yard field goal last week.

“That’s the mindset (for some). The bullying that happens when they miss a field goal or they miss a pass, that goes on social media — and now they’re getting bullied, and now it’s a mental health issue, and now we have a much bigger problem than just the gambling aspect of it.”

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