Tim Donaghy had been an NBA referee for nine years when, in 2003, he began to place bets on NBA games — though he swore in an FBI lie-detector test, which he passed, that he never “fixed” a game with dubious calls. “I didn’t have to,” he says. “It was too easy using my insider’s knowledge.” After he resigned from the NBA and pleaded guilty in 2007, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison, lost what he describes as his $300,000 annual salary and his six-figure pension, and was ordered to pay $195,000 in restitution. His gambling exploits netted him only $100,000 in winning bets, he swears. “But I didn’t really do it for the money.”
Donaghy now lives in Sarasota, Fla., and operates his website, Refpicks, a handicapping service for sports gamblers that employs a dozen other handicappers around the country who specialize in sports other than basketball. Donaghy himself only makes picks for the NBA, using his knowledge of the officials for each game. “I’m the only handicapper in the country who bases his picks on the refs,” he says. He’s successful roughly 60 percent of the time — that’s about five points higher than most professional gamblers, which means that in the world of sports gambling, the name Tim Donaghy is gold. In the real world, that name is mud. Donaghy is usually referred to in the media with a prefix, like a tail pinned to a donkey: “disgraced referee” Tim Donaghy.