NEW CHARGES, OLD FRIENDSHIPS
Authorities investigating Connecticut's mounting jai alai scandal (SI, June 11, et seq.) say they plan to look into questionable activities at all three of the state's frontons. For now, however, the probe at the one in Milford is keeping them so busy that Hartford and Bridgeport will have to wait. In June officials charged three gamblers and a player with rigging and conspiring to rig games in 1977 at Milford. Last week warrants were issued for the arrest of six other persons on charges rising out of suspected fixes at Milford. A source close to the investigation says, "We haven't even scratched the surface."
Those charged last week included four players, three of whom, known on the courts as Garcia, Iriondo and Arana, were accused of perjury; the fourth, known as Kirby, was accused of rigging and conspiring to rig games. The others charged were Floridians David Herman, accused of perjury, and Robert Moore, accused of rigging and conspiring to rig games.
Herman, a principal member of a gambling ring called the Miami Syndicate, is known to have spent 10 days recently betting at the fronton in Newport, R.I., whose operations have been the subject of a state inquiry. The latest crackdown in Connecticut prompted pledges by Rhode Island authorities to step up their investigation. The gathering cloud over the nation's jai alai industry hadn't prevented the state Racing and Athletics Commission from deciding last month to extend the Newport fronton's season by six weeks. "The fronton operator and state both can use the additional revenue," explained commission chairman Kevin Coleman, but Robert Gentile, a commission counsel, admitted that the extension was "a calculated risk."
The latest Connecticut arrests again focus attention on jai alai in Florida, where Herman's betting syndicate has been active. The players charged last week regularly competed at the fronton in Dania, which is owned by the company that owns the one in Milford. Moore operates an amateur fronton in Miami. While Connecticut presses ahead, Florida officials seem loath to disturb the state's lucrative jai alai industry. Governor Robert Graham recently assured the state's worried fronton officials that " Florida's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering is going to renew their friendship with the pari-mutuel industry." That was an obvious slap at Leigh Somers, chief investigator for the division, who had vainly proposed that a grand jury look into possible irregularities at the state's 10 frontons. Last week Somers quit his job in frustration. He charged that state authorities had systematically reduced his investigatory powers, making him feel "like a tree being chopped away limb by limb."
The official NCAA line that college athletes are also students apparently isn't being bought by the University of Arizona's equipment managers. They recently put up a sign in a locker room reading: OFF LIMITS TO ALL STUDENTS AND VISITORS. FOR VARSITY ATHLETES ONLY!