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"The mayor of Minneapolis, the chief of police, the county attorney, the FBI or anybody else can walk in through our open door just as you did," Hirschfield indignantly told me. "In the operation of this business, we break no laws, neither federal, state nor local. We neither make wagers nor accept them. At no time do we have any financial interest in the outcome of any athletic contest whatsoever. If a man buys odds, it's not my business what he does with them. If I were to sell you a car, do you think I'd ask if you planned to use it to rob a bank?"
Hirschfield maintains that the largest group of his telephone clients is composed of sportswriters and broadcasters. "Most of them are capable of making their own predictions," Hirschfield says, "but they apparently prefer to compare their odds with ours, since we are considered fairly accurate."
The next group Hirschfield claims is composed of sports fans who enter newspaper contests. "They feel," he says, "that they will have a better chance of taking down some of the prize money if they substitute our opinions for theirs."
There are two more groups: bettors and bookmakers. Of the bettors, Hirschfield says, "This is no fault of mine." Of the bookmakers, he says, "It is true that a limited number of bookmakers now use our predictions [Hirschfield has a polite distaste for the word "odds"] as a basis for accepting wagers. These people could use the predictions made by their local sportswriters and sports announcers, if they had sufficient confidence in their consistent accuracy. If they use ours instead, it is only because they consider ours more reliable."
As one might expect, some sports officials haven't found Hirschfield's business as bland as he makes out. Big Ten Commissioner Kenneth (Tug) Wilson refused to see Hirschfield after he came up with a plan to end basketball scandals. The National Association of Basketball Coaches once reneged on their invitation to have him address their convention.
Naturally, this irks Hirschfield, who is proud of his reputation as a businessman and who is highly regarded in his community. "I am a member of the finest Jewish country club in Minneapolis, and your application for membership is considered very carefully and very thoroughly before you are admitted," he says. "The sportswriters and sportscasters here are very friendly, and I frequently have lunch with Charlie Johnson, executive sports editor of The Minneapolis Star and Tribune. If you would take the trouble to read our weekly football and basketball publications over the years, you would find that some of the finest sportswriters in the country contribute to these magazines, and have no objection to doing business with us. You would also find, in reading these publications, that the articles on the individual teams are written, not by us, but by the publicity directors of the various colleges. They have no hesitancy about doing business with us. We are on the mailing list of 99% of the colleges whose records we carry, and receive from them the publicity releases that they send to newspapers...."
To keep his fine reputation, Hirschfield has turned down "hundreds and hundreds" of requests that he print football parlay cards. "I consider them to be gambling paraphernalia, akin to punch boards," Hirschfield says. "It is not illegal to print and sell parlay cards, but I simply do not feel that they fit in with the code of ethics under which I operate this business."
Others lack Hirschfield's ethical qualms about parlay cards. In fact, two companies—Arcadia Sales & Publishing Co. in Chicago and Hyke Football Service in Dallas—print them. Neither firm, of course, accepts wagers on the cards. They merely print them for sale to customers who can do with them as they wish. The cards, however, are another important facet of the over-all betting picture in the U.S.
Hyke Football Service, which also sells football handicaps by wire or long-distance phone for the weekly rate of $20 or the seasonal rate of $100, is the older of the two. Hyke Football Service prints 11 different cards, e.g., "Big 4," "Two Teamer," "Coast to Coast," "Ten/Two Fifty," which vary in the number of teams one must pick to win. On the "Ten/Two Fifty," for example, one must select exactly 10 teams. On the "Two Teamer" one is allowed to select a minimum of two teams and a maximum of 10. All cards carry 30 to 40 handicapped games.
The prices are reasonable: a C.O.D. express shipment of 250 cards, the minimum order accepted, costs $6; 500 cards cost $8.75; 1,000, $12.75, and 5,000, $52.75.