- Horse Racing - Bettor said to have frat ties to fired worker

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Friday, November 1
Bettor said to have frat ties to fired worker

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A man being investigated for a suspicious Breeders' Cup bet worth $3 million was the fraternity brother of an employee later fired by the company that handled the wager, an industry source said Friday.

Derrick Davis held six winning tickets for the Ultra Pick Six on Saturday for the racing showcase at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill. Racing officials say he phoned in a bet correctly picking the winners of the first four races, then played every horse for the last two races. He had the day's only winning Pick Six tickets.

Investigators are trying to determine whether the bet was made after the fourth race, and if the ticket was altered to make it appear the wager was placed before the first race of the Pick Six. In the meantime, Davis' big score is being held up.

Davis, a 29-year-old from Baltimore, has denied doing anything illegal.

Lorne Weil, chairman and chief executive officer of Scientific Games, the parent company of Autotote Corp., said the employee fired this week had the password to get into the data system and alter tickets. Weil did not specifically refer to Davis' pick.

Weil also did not identify the employee or say how the ticket might have been changed. The employee was Christopher W. Harn, 29, of Newark, Del., an industry source close to the investigation and speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press. The source also confirmed he and Davis were fraternity brothers at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Calls to Harn and Davis were not immediately returned. A call to Steven Allen, the Maryland lawyer representing Davis, was not immediately returned.

With the reputation of the racing industry at stake, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association on Friday created a task force to study security of computer betting systems and come up with a better way to protect the $14.5 billion pari-mutuel industry.

At Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., racing officials on Friday changed the locks in the tote rooms, added guards and security cameras. The race track is offering a $1 million Pick Six payout this weekend.

Davis' six tickets were worth $428,392 each and he also had 108 consolation tickets (five of six winners) worth more than $4,000 each for a total take of more than $3 million. If the tickets are declared fraudulent, the 78 other tickets with five of six winners get about $44,000.

''Ultimately, looking ahead, our focus is squarely on protecting our consuming public and continuing to warrant and enhance consumer confidence,'' Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief said.

Tim Smith, commissioner of the NTRA, added: ''Whatever the outcome of the current investigation, we must stay focused on the overriding priority of keeping faith with the fans and customers who support our game and industry through legal wagering.''

Keeping that faith is vital in a domestic thoroughbred industry that employs 472,000 people, industry watchers said. Horse racing -- including gambling and agribusiness -- is worth $34 billion a year in the U.S.

''Obviously it would put a black eye on the security of particularly the racing industry,'' said Jay Kornegay, director of race and sports at the Imperial Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas. ''I've never thought anything like this could possibly be done but if it's true, it's something that is a wake-up call.''

Autotote holds 65 percent of the pari-mutuel market in the U.S. Representatives for AmTote and United Tote, both based in Maryland, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Smith said the task force will try to identify minimum security standards at tracks, including a look at the practice of waiting to transmit Pick Six betting data until after the fourth race has been run. Racing officials say the data is delayed to avoid overwhelming computer systems.

''Already, racetracks and members of our association are working on changing procedures, literally today,'' Smith said.

Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita is the host of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships next year. The increased security was a first step.

''We are doing everything possible to make sure there are no abnormalities,'' executive vice president Sherwood Chillingworth said.

Thursday, the New York Racing Association asked the state Racing and Wagering Board to investigate two Pick Six payouts -- one for $421,998 and one for $330,989 -- during the summer meeting at Saratoga Race Course. Smith said he knew of no other active investigations.

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