After further review, no evidence of nefarious sports betting activity was uncovered in UNLV’s football game at New Mexico last month.
What sources said remains unexplained is why an unusual amount of people registered for new accounts at BetMGM sportsbook with substantial amounts of money and immediately bet it all on the Rebels to beat the Lobos.
UNLV opened as a 9-point favorite. The line soared to 16½ before the Rebels rolled to a 56-14 rout on Nov. 4
BetMGM notified U.S. Integrity — an independent sports betting monitor based in Henderson — of suspicious betting activity before the game, sources said. U.S. Integrity then alerted other sportsbooks and government regulators.
The Westgate SuperBook didn’t see any suspicious activity on the game, vice president Jay Kornegay said. But he added that it was still worth looking into the matter.
“If we would have had new accounts that only bet on the UNLV game, that would be a red flag for us,” Kornegay said.
The new accounts at BetMGM not only bet on the Rebels to cover the spread on the game but also to cover the first-half line, a source said.
UNLV scored touchdowns on its first five possessions — including Jayden Maiava’s 30-yard TD pass to Ricky White on the team’s first play from scrimmage — en route to a 35-7 halftime lead.
U.S. Integrity CEO Matthew Holt said his company closed its portion of the investigation Dec. 14.
“The odds movement and wagering activity was the most abnormal we’ve seen for a game that didn’t involve a major injury. There were no injuries,” Holt said. “But other than that, we found no evidence of wrongdoing.”
A bettor at the BetMGM book 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 Review-Journal before the game.
The wager was part of an abnormally large amount of money bet on an obscure game. The typical national legal betting handle, or amount of money wagered, on a Mountain West game is $7 million to $9 million, according to a source. The UNLV-New Mexico game had an estimated handle of $15 million.
No wagers were connected to either school’s football program, a source said.
An MGM official in Las Vegas did not respond to a request for comment. The Nevada Gaming Control Board wouldn’t confirm or deny an investigation into the matter.
The Lobos finished 4-8 this season and went 6-6 against the spread. Their 42-point loss to UNLV matched their largest of the season.
New Mexico was defeated at Boise State 42-14 the week after it lost to the Rebels, failing to cover as a 27½-point underdog. The Lobos did cover their final two games.
New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nunez was notified by U.S. Integrity a week after the UNLV game about the suspicious betting activity. He said he immediately spoke to the school’s football staff.
“The whole staff was adamant they didn’t see anything. They were all pissed off we lost so bad,” Nunez told the Action Network. “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, except getting our ass kicked.”
After the U.S. Integrity probe was closed, Nunez said in a statement that “no findings or concerns were associated with the University of New Mexico.”
The Rebels exceeded all expectations this season.
They went 9-4 to soar over their season win total of 4½ at sportsbooks. UNLV also advanced to the Mountain West championship game and compiled the country’s third-best spread record at 10-3.
The Rebels are a 13-point underdog to Kansas in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Tuesday in Phoenix. UNLV told the Review-Journal previously it wouldn’t release a statement on the New Mexico matter, saying “it does not involve UNLV.”
Rebels coach Barry Odom told the Action Network this month he didn’t suspect anything unusual during the game.
“It was a game we took control of early,” Odom said. “But looking back, I don’t remember anything to cause me to believe (there was any wrongdoing).”