Odd Betting Spurs Probe At N.j. Track

Posted: October 08, 1987

Amid an investigation by the New Jersey Racing Commission into what it calls "unusual betting patterns" involving a harness race last Thursday night at Garden State Park, at least one Las Vegas casino is refusing to accept bets on races at the Jersey track.

Eddie Clarke, manager of the race book at Caesars Palace, said he would no longer accept bets on races at the Cherry Hill track, but would not say whether his decision resulted from the race under investigation.

"I have no further comment," he said.

Garden State officials said yesterday that they became suspicious almost immediately after the race, in which 8-1 shot Happy H A beat 12-1 shot D A Pump by a neck.

Happy H A paid $19.40 to win, and D A Pump paid $19.80 to place.

The unusual betting pattern surfaced when park officials realized the exacta returned $86.40 - a price much "lower" than what would be considered normal in such a finish, according to Bill Fidati, publicity director at Garden State.

"We lost $29,000," said Scotty Schettler, director of the race and sports book at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. "That's unusual for one race. That's way, way out of line. In my opinion, it was a sting. I think about eight casinos got hit. Us and Ceasars got hit the hardest. This happens once in a while."

Fidati said the judges at the track, concerned about the results of the race, reviewed videotapes of the event immediately afterward.

"I think the general feeling was that the exacta price should have been higher," he said. "The prices always do vary, but the general consensus was that the 86.40 was lower than it should have been."

Catello Manzi was the driver of the winner, while Eman Petersheim drove the second-place finisher in the nine-horse race.

"An investigation is being conducted of the 10th race," said Robert Quigley, president of Garden State. "That's all we know at this time."

While the exacta paid only $86.40 in New Jersey, the quinella paid $192.10 in Las Vegas - part of the unusual betting pattern that led to the investigation.

"I can tell you exactly what happened," Schettler said. "A team of bettors bet the exacta in Jersey and came out here (to Las Vegas) and bet the quinella, and they won."

Schettler said Las Vegas casinos lost about $150,000 as a result of the betting in the race, but he added that, unlike Caesars, his casino, will continue taking bets for races at Garden State.

"That's the way things are in harness racing," he said. "We'll still be taking bets from Garden State, sure. I know they won't do it again. The heat's on them now. If we didn't take any bets from Garden State, we'd be losing all that money from there."

The racing commission, which began its inquiry the day after the race, is conducting the investigation in cooperation with the New Jersey State Police.

"It will take as long as is necessary to find out what happened," said Bruce Garland, executive director of the racing commission. "We've looked into unusual betting patterns in the past. They come up every so often."

While Happy H A and D A Pump finished first and second, the favorite in the race, Safe N Shur, finished seventh. Safe N Shur had been a 2.60-1 shot. The other top favorites - Trentons Star and Miss Trish, both 4-1 shots - finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Presiding judge Donald Latessa began reviewing the videotapes of the race that same night, Fidati said. The racing commission started its investigation the following day - an inquiry that will look into the betting in both New Jersey and Las Vegas. Garden State officials said they would cooperate fully with the commission probe.

"Any time you have a race in which the favorites run poorly, they review the tapes," Fidati said. "In this one, I believe one of the reasons it was reviewed was because two relative long shots were involved."

Fidati said he could not comment on the specifics of the investigation, including what, if anything, the tapes of the race will reveal.

"This is the first one (investigation) that I can remember here in the last two years," Fidati said. "The track is concerned about maintaining its integrity and that things are kept as clean and as honest as possible."

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