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JAI ALAI SCANDAL (CONT.)
The jai alai scandal that broke four weeks ago when Connecticut authorities arrested three gamblers and a player on charges of rigging and conspiring to rig games in 1977 at the Milford fronton (SI, June 11) has now spread to Florida, as it was expected it would. Charges that games were fixed over a three-year period at the Dania, Fla. fronton, which like the one at Milford is owned by the Saturday Corporation, were leveled last week by William Irwin, Florida's chief auditor at the Dania fronton.
Interviewed on ABC's 20/20 news magazine, Irwin said that Paul Commonas, one of the gamblers arrested in connection with the alleged fixes in Connecticut, bet on rigged games at Dania from 1975 to 1978. Asked if he witnessed any of the fixes, Irwin replied, "Yes, I did. I could notice from my printout sheets [computer printouts that analyze betting patterns] that somebody was betting large sums, approximately $3,000 in $10 quinellas in a game, and that, invariably, certain players were left out [from among those on whom the bettor wagered]. He [Commonas] never bet these players, and invariably they never won." Irwin alleged that five players were involved in the fixes. Asked if Commonas' pattern of eliminating certain entries from his bets could have been sheer good luck, Irwin replied, "No way. It was too consistent."
Irwin had given similar information to Florida gaming authorities four years ago and again in 1978, but no meaningful action was taken. Apparently Florida officials didn't want to hear bad news about the state's $267 million jai alai industry. Hartford Courant reporter Ted Driscoll recently wrote, "Since at least 1972, Florida state officials have systematically covered up evidence of the same kinds of game-fixing and other jai alai betting improprieties now under investigation by a Connecticut grand jury.... Whether by design or naivet�...jai alai has been protected in Florida by a consistent cover-up by the industry and by state officials."
Clearly there has been a notable lack of zeal in past Florida investigations, but things may be changing. Last week, for the first time ever, state action was brought against jai alai management when Arthur Silvester, owner of the West Palm Beach fronton that was destroyed in an $8 million arson last December, and four of his employees were ordered by Florida's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to show cause, in a non-criminal proceeding, why they should not have their licenses revoked or suspended, or be fined. Silvester is charged with allowing the burial of official records in the fronton rubble. Don Roberts, his general manager, is accused of ordering the burial, and both are accused of mishandling "outs tickets"—winning tickets that have not been cashed immediately. More than $200,000 worth of outs tickets seized by the pari-mutuel division were not stamped, a fact that might have made it possible to cash the tickets twice.
The three other West Palm Beach fronton employees are accused of participating in a betting pool that placed wagers on credit—instead of on a cash basis, as pari-mutuel rules require. The pool allegedly bet as much as $3,000 a night and won some $142,000 during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. The total figure wagered on credit is not known. "But regardless of the amount," says Division Director Gary Rutledge, "it was important."
The fact that Florida is at last investigating charges of corruption in jai alai is even more important.
AM I WEIRD?
Terry Anderson, a wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, is a man who keeps unusual company. For instance, he has a pet tarantula that he's planning to bring to training camp. "I used to have a German shepherd," Anderson told John Crittenden of The Miami News, "but you can't take a dog around with you like you can a tarantula. I like its silence and the way it hunts. Sometimes I sit her on the floor and meditate with her." And sometimes he lets her perch on his forehead, like a small tam.
"Maybe some people think I'm weird," he said. "I'm just a different person."