Anti-gambling rules need strengthening, says report

WASHINGTON Thu Oct 2, 2008 4:37pm EDT

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy leaves Brooklyn federal court after his sentencing in New York July 29, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy leaves Brooklyn federal court after his sentencing in New York July 29, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A report on the NBA's officiating program released on Thursday found no evidence of illegal gambling by any referee other than Tim Donaghy.

The NBA-commissioned report by former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz said, however, that the league's anti-gambling rules needed to be strengthened and better enforced.

"We've discovered no information that any NBA referee other than Tim Donaghy has bet on NBA games or leaked confidential information to gamblers," Pedowitz told a teleconference.

Donaghy, an NBA referee for 13 seasons, is serving a 15-month prison term in Florida after pleading guilty in August last year to providing inside information to gamblers.

"Although we found nothing to suggest other referees bet on NBA games or disclosed confidential NBA information, we did find that a significant number of referees had engaged in other forms of gambling, such as casino gambling, in violation of NBA rules."

Pedowitz said the league's anti-gambling rules "had been too broadly drafted and the league's failure to enforce the rules contributed to a permissive atmosphere."

The 116-page report, gathered over 14 months from more than 200 interviews with referees and league officials, recommended the NBA restructure the management of its officiating program.

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NBA Commissioner David Stern said all of the recommendations would eventually be implemented. He said, for example, referees would soon become more accessible to the media.

"We're in the process for planning for that now, where particular referees will be made available on a more consistent basis having to do with rule interpretation, post-game, and the like," said Stern.

"We're determined to de-mystify the process and share with the media, and therefore our fans, the rules, the ins-and-outs, as well as the mistakes that will inevitably be made."

Before being sent to prison, Donaghy alleged a number of referees had fixed games and that the NBA was guilty of misconduct. He would not be interviewed for the report, said Pedowitz.

"We found no support for Donaghy's allegations that referees had manipulated specific games," Pedowitz said.

"We've also discovered no evidence that the league has ever put a thumb on the scales and asked referees to call games to favor particular teams or players."

(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Sonia Oxley)

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