One of the biggest names in NFL officiating revealed that there have been attempts to fix games for gambling purposes.

Dean Blandino, current FOX Sports rules analyst and former NFL VP of Officiating, appeared on the “Awful Announcing” podcast to discuss how legalized sports gambling has affected current-day officials.

While Blandino was unable to comment on whether it has impacted the job, he did acknowledge the heightened scrutiny around the league’s vetting of potential referees. According to Blandino, the strict protocols around referees are still currently in place.

“They look at all of your business associations. They look for conflicts of interest — all of that, bank accounts, everything,” Blandino told host Brandon Contes. “And there’s checks during the season. And so, they’ll look at if a game official has $10 in their bank account on Friday, and then they work a game, and now there’s $100,000; that’s a red flag, right? So, you’re checking those things. You’re monitoring the betting lines and looking at how calls impact those lines and are their individual officials that are involved in more of those calls. It’s a massive, massive undertaking. Because what the league doesn’t want and what we never wanted was a situation like what happened with the NBA, right?”

Most leagues have had their fair share of crushing gambling investigations. Pete Rose is still serving a lifelong ban for betting on Reds games. The NBA dealt with a game-fixing scandal during 2007’s investigation into Tim Donaghy.

According to Blandino, the league has gotten close to having one of its own.

“We’ve had situations where people were approached,” Blandino said. “We’ve always told our game officials because they’re in hotels — they’re traveling around during the season — we didn’t want them wearing NFL-branded gear. We didn’t want them to be inconspicuous because someone sees them and ‘Oh, those are the NFL officials,’ and then you never know. You don’t know who you’re gonna come across. And they know that they’re supposed to go to NFL security if something like that happens. And that has happened in the past.

“They’re not allowed to go…if they have to go to their casino, maybe in their other job, there’s a speaking engagement, it’s at a casino they can’t go in the sportsbook. They have to let the NFL know that they’re gonna be in Las Vegas for this event and are gonna be staying at wherever. There a lot of controls in place.”

The NFL officially approved four sportsbooks in 2021 – FOX Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet, and WynnBet – and agreed to three official partnerships with Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel. With such close ties, it makes sense why the league would want to be as strict around gambling as possible. In September, the league updated its gambling policy to levy harsher penalties against players who bet on their own team. Now we know referees are being protected from the fix, too. 

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