N.Y. Bill Makes Tampering With Wagers a Felony

A legislator has proposed that New York law should be tightened to create a felony that specifically outlaws tampering with pari-mutuel bets and wagering systems. The bill, sponsored by Assembly racing committee chairman Alexander Gromack of Rockland County, comes in the aftermath of the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 betting probe.

Gromack, in a news conference scheduled for Nov. 22, will also call on the racing industry to pay the 78 people who correctly picked five of the six Ultra Pick 6 winners from Oct. 26. Each won about $4,600 for their bets, but are entitled, Gromack said, to at least another $39,000 each because of the alleged tampering incident that has led to charges against three men, including a former Autotote employee.

The Gromack legislation, which has not yet been introduced, will be the first plan in the state to try to deal with the situation that has served as a wake-up call for the pari-mutuel industry. It comes after New York State Racing and Wagering Board chairman Michael Hoblock said that a number of statutes will have to be changed, though he declined, pending a final review of the matter, to be specific.

The individuals involved in the wagering probe are facing wire fraud conspiracy charges, in part because there is no state law that specifically outlaws tampering with pari-mutuel bets. The Gromack bill will make it a felony to tamper with horse racing pools or wagers.

The legislation will also target a major loophole in state law that, critics said, helped those charged with manipulating the pick six bets. The bets were keyed in using a telephone in an account at Catskill Off Track Betting Corp., but there is no statute requiring a record of the actual bets made, and Catskill, unlike some betting entities, chose not to keep such details of its phone bets.

Had such records existed, the OTB corporation could have quickly determined the bets had been manipulated after several of the Breeders' Cup races had been run.

To resolve that problem in the future, Gromack is proposing that entities accepting wagers keep a recorded trail of the bets. OTBs and tracks will be barred from contracting with any tote company or out-of-state betting entity that does not back up betting records.