In organized sports, point shaving is a type of match fixing where the perpetrators try to prevent a team from covering a published point spread. Unlike other forms of match fixing, sports betting invariably motivates point shaving. A point shaving scheme generally involves a sports gambler and one or more players of the team favored to win the game. In exchange for a bribe, the player or players agree to ensure that their team will not "cover the point spread" (i.e. the bribed player's team may still win, but by not as big a margin as predicted by oddsmakers). The gambler then wagers against the bribed team. Alternatively, an official (referee) of the game may be bribed, or even bet on his own behalf, so that one or more "close calls" will be called in favor of the "underdog" rather than the team favored to win.
General use in sports
Basketball is a particularly easy medium for shaving points because of the scoring tempo of the game and the ease by which one player can influence key events. By deliberately missing shots or committing well-timed turnovers or fouls, a corrupt player can covertly ensure that his team fails to cover the point spread without causing them to lose the game. Although the NCAA has adopted a zero tolerance policy with respect to gambling activity by its players, some critics believe it unwittingly encourages point shaving due to its strict rules regarding amateurism, combined with the large amount of money wagered on its games. The NCAA has produced posters warning players not to engage in point shaving.
Famous examples of point shaving are the Dixie Classic scandal of 1961, the CCNY Point Shaving Scandal in 1950–51 and the Boston College basketball point shaving scandal of 1978–79, which was perpetrated by gangsters Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke.
American football is also subject to point shaving. If and when a scandal occurs in this sport, it often involves the quarterback throwing "bad passes" and even interceptions, and also usually involves the Referees calling bad plays incorrectly (or good plays, for that matter).
The technique has been used by both amateur and professional athletes in many other sports. The intention is to manipulate scoring so that the final score results in a predetermined outcome.
In most reported cases of point shaving, only one athlete is involved. However, there is one recent report of a point shaving scheme which involved the coordinated effort of referees and numerous players in German football. A total of 25 people were investigated in connection with the scheme. In June 2005, the German Football Association (DFB) and German prosecutors launched separate probes into charges that referee Robert Hoyzer bet on and fixed several matches that he worked, including a German Cup tie. Hoyzer later admitted to the allegations; it has been reported that he was involved with Croat gambling syndicates. He also implicated other referees and players in the match fixing scheme. Hoyzer, Marks, two other referees and fourteen players—were investigated in connection with at least 10 matches that may have been fixed in 2004. The first arrests in the Hoyzer investigation were made on 28 January in Berlin, and Hoyzer himself was arrested on 12 February after new evidence apparently emerged to suggest that he had been involved in fixing more matches than he had admitted to. Hoyzer has been banned for life from football by the DFB. On 10 March, a second referee, Dominik Marks, was arrested after being implicated in the scheme by Hoyzer.
In the past, small bookies saw large profits in small point shaving schemes; however, the conspiracy has reached new levels in present day sports. According to the 1999 Gambling Impact Study, an estimated $80 billion to $380 billion was illegally bet each year on sporting events in the United States. (This includes all sources and forms of sports gambling, not just bets connected to match fixing.) This estimate dwarfed the $2.5 billion legally bet each year in Nevada.
Such an enormous amount of illegal activity makes organized sports a likely candidate for corruption. On 15 August 2007, an NBA referee, Tim Donaghy, pleaded guilty to two felonies related to wagering on games that he officiated.