The National Basketball League (NBL) have launched an investigation into allegations of illegal betting on the results of several games in the competition this season.
NBL chairman and Basketball New Zealand chief executive Iain Potter confirmed to the Herald on Sunday that on multiple occasions over the past months, the NBL has asked the TAB to investigate alleged suspicious betting activity in NBL games.
The latest game which Potter has confirmed the league will be looking into is a clash from last Friday between the Taranaki Mountain Airs and Auckland's Supercity Rangers in New Plymouth.
The Herald on Sunday has learned from several sources that the finish to the game raised eyebrows among spectators and officials.
With just two seconds remaining on the clock, a shot from the Airs reduced the Rangers' lead to nine points - 94-85. While teams would traditionally run out the clock when up by a hefty margin with little time left, the Rangers took a timeout, and on the resulting inbounds play, hit a three-pointer on the buzzer to win by 12 points.
One of the popular options available to bet on at the TAB is for a team to win by 11 points or more.
The Rangers' last-second shot to make it a 12-point victory sparked scenes of celebration among the Rangers players, according to Mountain Airs coach Trent Adam.
"I found [it] unusual to be calling a timeout in that situation of the game. They then ran a play and hit a three-point shot on the buzzer which invoked a lot of celebration from the Rangers players, which I thought was sort of unusual, to be running the score up in that situation," Adam said.
Rangers coach Jeff Green last night vehemently denied any wrongdoing by his team.
"There is nothing to hide. We know we are not allowed to bet on our league," he said.
"We all know the situation. The whole team. Everyone knows the rules. You get caught, you take the consequences."
According to Green, the timeout was called to give a departing player the final shot.
"We wanted to give him the chance to leave on a high."
Green was unaware of any investigation by the NBL.
"I have no worries whatsoever. You coach accordingly to some of those things and I make no apologies for calling that timeout."
Potter says the NBL's investigation into allegations around the game will include the TAB looking into the game to determine whether anything untoward took place.
"They [TAB] will look to see if there's anything in that betting activity that suggests if there's anything suspicious," Potter said.
"If they said 'yes, we think there is something', we would have to look at all the evidence we could gather and then make a decision to see whether we would put it into a formal process."
Potter also revealed that this was not the first game this season the organisation were looking into allegations of illegal betting.
"I get reports from people periodically during the season about activity that may or may not be suspicious and relate to betting integrity.
"Where there are suspicions, we have looked - and we have asked the TAB to look a couple or three times this year - at betting patterns."
Under the anti-match fixing and sports betting policy of Basketball New Zealand's internal regulations, a basketballer playing in a game commits an offence if they wager anything of value in connection with any game or event conducted by or under the auspices of BBNZ, or offer, give, solicit or accept anything of value to or from any person with the intent to influence any player's efforts in a game.
The TAB is a major sponsor of the NBL, offering live betting on every game and is a live streaming partner for the competition.
Those streams run ads for the TAB during the game, while the odds on offer are often mentioned throughout the broadcast.
The official NBL website also runs TAB advertisements, including promoting a signing bonus where NBL fans who open an account with the TAB get an additional $20. For each person who signs up, BBNZ earn $10 and the NBL team closest to where that person is based also receives $10.
The TAB wouldn't comment on specifics around any existing investigation.
"If a sporting body requests information about betting activity on a particular match or matches, we are obliged to investigate and pass on any information to that sporting body," a spokesperson said. "We are unable to comment further, under the terms of our agreement."
It's not the first time the NBL has had a betting shadow cast over it. In prior seasons, the NBL has requested the TAB to investigate allegations of players betting on their teams to win.
- Additional reporting by Michael Burgess