- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
BUCKING THE SYSTEM
When bettors at Connecticut's three jai alai frontons say their money has flown South, they aren't kidding. Theodore A. Driscoll, in a series of articles in The Hartford Courant, reports that last year two-thirds of the big winnings at the frontons went to out-of-state residents, the most conspicuous of whom were a group of young gamblers from Florida who specialize in buying inside information.
Known as the " Miami syndicate," the principals in the group, which was headed by Rodney Woods, were familiar figures at the Connecticut frontons until very recently. Too familiar for the gaming commission. Betting trifectas—picking the first three teams in the order of their finish—the group improved its chance by paying "gratuities" to fronton employees for data not generally available to other bettors. At all three frontons the syndicate had access to computer printouts that summarized the action every 90 seconds while the wagering was still going on. In system betting that kind of information is a bit like knowing your opponent's hole cards in stud poker.
For one thing, a running account of how many bets have been placed on each of the 336 trifecta combinations allows the system bettor to lay off the heavily played numbers and play the less popular ones. Also, the printout permits high rollers to drive other system players out of the game by betting the rivals' numbers so heavily that they will lose money even if their number wins, which is a tactic that the Miami group allegedly used.
According to the Courant, Woods' system could have netted nearly $1 million in just the first seven months of 1976. Over a complete season, says the Courant, the system could win about $1.12 for every $1 bet—a 12% profit. By comparison, the average bettor wins about 820 for every $1 bet, or a loss of 18%.
Woods wagered about $5 million annually in Connecticut, and he and his compatriots were hosted royally. Rarely did they stand in line or pay cash for their tickets. Those duties were performed by fronton employees, says the Courant, some of whom earned more from Woods than they did from their regular jobs.
At Bridgeport Jai Alai, which provided the Miami group with a private lounge complete with TV monitors and ticket-punching machines, Woods reportedly got the printouts from Basil French, the mutuels manager.
At Hartford Jai Alai, he got his printouts from Mark Wiesenfeld, the assistant mutuels manager. When management halted that practice, Woods worked through John DeWees, a ticket puncher who was allegedly in contact with Wiesenfeld in the computer room. DeWees is no longer a fronton employee. French and Wiesenfeld are still on the job.
But it was at Milford Jai Alai, where Woods had a cozy relationship with Frederick Vines, the official handicapper, that the Florida mastermind ran afoul of the law. Last month Woods pleaded guilty to charges that he bribed Vines to rig his picks. Vines also pleaded guilty to the bribery charge. After he paid a $7,500 fine, Woods was barred from pari-mutuel betting in Connecticut and he and his partners faded from the scene.
While safeguards have been taken to prevent the reemergence of a Woods & Co., Lester Snyder, of the gaming commission, fears, "They could still be betting through agents and friends, so there's no way of knowing if they really are out of business in Connecticut."