I Think I Know What Justin Wolfers Is Doing Today

News reports yesterday say the FBI is investigating an NBA referee who allegedly bet on games that he was calling.

This is a perfect problem for an economist to answer with data, and the obvious man for the job is Justin Wolfers, who has written papers on NBA referees and on point shaving in basketball!

Message to Justin: Freakonomics blog readers expect to be the first to know when you’ve analyzed the data.


Ken D.

But note the last words, and only footnote, of the cited article: "While referees may also be corruptible, they are not vested in either the favorite or underdog winning and, thus, are unlikely to be the source of the systematic patterns previously identified." A player can shave in only one direction, a referee in either. That makes the pattern-spotting analysis much more difficult. Perhaps not impossible, but difficult.

F. Chakra

Ha nice, my friends and I were just saying this this morning. Wolfers is doing some of the most interesting work out there today in my opinion.

58saavedra

We're is the data he uses? I think this would be a good (but challenging) exercise for student econometricians.

jgibbs

I look forward to Justin Wolfers analysis and insights on this interesting issue. Inspired by his previous work, I have spent the past year collecting and analyzing NBA game data. Based on my analysis, the data suggest a persistent inefficiency in the NBA betting market, which can be explained by point shaving. This recent revelation regarding a referee is consistent with the data.

My analysis is presented in my recently completed senior economics thesis at Stanford University posted here: http://www.stanford.edu/~jmg52/

Kent

Jonathan Gibbs wrote: "Particularly, the strategies of betting against all favorites of 10 or more points and betting against all favorites of 12.5 or more points reject a fair bet at the 5% significance level ... Additionally, a major point, untouched in this examination, is that point shaving is consistently attributed to players, while coaches and referees are no less principal characters in basketball games and could be equally culpable. Further research could study substitution patterns and infractions called to test if, instead, coaches or referees are willfully affecting the final margins of games."

http://www.stanford.edu/~jmg52/NBA%20Analysis/JGibbs%20NBA%20Analysis.pdf

Kent

Jonathan Gibbs wrote: “Particularly, the strategies of betting against all favorites of 10 or more points and betting against all favorites of 12.5 or more points reject a fair bet at the 5% significance level … Additionally, a major point, untouched in this examination, is that point shaving is consistently attributed to players, while coaches and referees are no less principal characters in basketball games and could be equally culpable. Further research could study substitution patterns and infractions called to test if, instead, coaches or referees are willfully affecting the final margins of games."

chappy8

To post #1. Everything I've read indicates that the any cheating would happen on over/under bets. The ref can fairly easily influence a game by calling more fouls and thus stopping the clock and letting points accrue at a greater rate via the free throw line.

Ken D.

But note the last words, and only footnote, of the cited article: "While referees may also be corruptible, they are not vested in either the favorite or underdog winning and, thus, are unlikely to be the source of the systematic patterns previously identified." A player can shave in only one direction, a referee in either. That makes the pattern-spotting analysis much more difficult. Perhaps not impossible, but difficult.

F. Chakra

Ha nice, my friends and I were just saying this this morning. Wolfers is doing some of the most interesting work out there today in my opinion.

58saavedra

We're is the data he uses? I think this would be a good (but challenging) exercise for student econometricians.

jgibbs

I look forward to Justin Wolfers analysis and insights on this interesting issue. Inspired by his previous work, I have spent the past year collecting and analyzing NBA game data. Based on my analysis, the data suggest a persistent inefficiency in the NBA betting market, which can be explained by point shaving. This recent revelation regarding a referee is consistent with the data.

My analysis is presented in my recently completed senior economics thesis at Stanford University posted here: http://www.stanford.edu/~jmg52/

Kent

Jonathan Gibbs wrote: "Particularly, the strategies of betting against all favorites of 10 or more points and betting against all favorites of 12.5 or more points reject a fair bet at the 5% significance level ... Additionally, a major point, untouched in this examination, is that point shaving is consistently attributed to players, while coaches and referees are no less principal characters in basketball games and could be equally culpable. Further research could study substitution patterns and infractions called to test if, instead, coaches or referees are willfully affecting the final margins of games."

http://www.stanford.edu/~jmg52/NBA%20Analysis/JGibbs%20NBA%20Analysis.pdf

Kent

Jonathan Gibbs wrote: "Particularly, the strategies of betting against all favorites of 10 or more points and betting against all favorites of 12.5 or more points reject a fair bet at the 5% significance level ... Additionally, a major point, untouched in this examination, is that point shaving is consistently attributed to players, while coaches and referees are no less principal characters in basketball games and could be equally culpable. Further research could study substitution patterns and infractions called to test if, instead, coaches or referees are willfully affecting the final margins of games."

chappy8

To post #1. Everything I've read indicates that the any cheating would happen on over/under bets. The ref can fairly easily influence a game by calling more fouls and thus stopping the clock and letting points accrue at a greater rate via the free throw line.