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The toteboard lights up after longshot Volponi wins the Classic. Thanks to him, the fraudulent Pick Six wager was exposed.

Tote System Poll
Can we trust the tote system in the future?

Maybe after they fix things
Do we have a choice?

I have worked for many years with computer systems, mostly as a system administrator, so I know just how much control and access computer support people can and do have to the systems they work on. Most people don't realize this or just how important it is to make absolutely sure the people who work in these positions are trustworthy. You have the keys to the kingdom in your hand and an unscrupulous person in such a position of power can easily do harm to systems and data if they so desire. It is very hard to put checks on people who have this type of job since every person who is given the access to check up on them also now has the access to do the same kind of harm. Access logs are very important to keep track of who is doing what, but most important is to make as sure as you can that the person in that position is honest. It all comes down to finding people you can trust, a difficult task in today's cutthroat world.

Tote System Manipulation

Date: 11/01/02


Bettors across the country are still reeling from the disclosure that the winning Pick Six wager for the Breeders' Cup may have been tampered with. Because of longshot Classic winner Volponi, there were only 6 winning wagers, which all belong to one "lucky" bettor. Suspicions were raised by the nature of the ticket: a $12 wager with a single horse in each of the first four races and all horses in the last two. Anyone familiar with pick six wagering would know this is not a logical ticket, especially considering the horse singled in the Mile was 26-1 Domedriver and not odds-on favorite Rock of Gibraltar, not to mention that almost nobody bets more than the $2 minimum on a combination. An investigation was called for immediately and payment of the winnings was withheld pending the outcome.

More information has come to light which makes it look even more crooked. Pick six wagers are not transmitted immediately to the host track tote system because of the large amount of data involved which would bog down the tote computers. Instead, the totals are sent immediately and only the live wagers are transmitted after the first four races are complete. Obviously if someone wanted to fix a ticket and had access to the tote system, they could change the selections in the first four races to the winning horses and the all horses selections in the last two races would guarantee a winning ticket.

Thursday Autotote fired an employee, described as a "rogue software engineer", who did indeed have the necessary access to the system to have modified the ticket. Even more damning, he is the same age as the winning bettor, who is a computer technician, and they both attended Drexel University in Philadelphia where they were fraternity brothers. So far there are no comments from Chris Harn, the fired employee, but the winning bettor, Derrick Davis, maintains his innocence. His attorney, Steven Allen of Baltimore, said: "As far as he’s concerned, he made a legitimate bet. The race was run, and he won, and he should have received his payoff, and that should have been the end of it. Now, instead, there’s an investigation, people are making a variety of wild accusations, and his reputation is being sullied for no good reason."

To add even more suspicion to the situation, the account the wagers were made from was only opened a few days before the Breeders' Cup and that was the only wager made with it. The OTB used, Catskill OTB in New York, does not yet have a recording system for touch tone wagers like this one, which would have instantly settled the question of which horses were picked when the wager was made. The security logs for employees entering and leaving the tote systems are also missing or incomplete, making the investigation even more difficult. Currently the FBI, New York State Police, and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board are investigating.

The suspect wager yielded 6 winning 6/6 tickets and 108 5/6 consolation tickets worth a total of $3.1 million. If it is determined to be an altered wager, these funds will be distributed. Since the 5/6 consolation tickets were IRS tickets, there are records of all those winners and all holders of legitimate 5 out of 6 tickets (78 total) will collect an additional $35,699 once the investigation is complete. If the 6/6 tickets are voided, only 5/6 tickets will be paid with 4/6 tickets not being an issue as only a 5/6 are paid if there is no 6/6 according to the rules of the wager.

The good thing is they caught on to this happening, the bad thing is we don't know how long it had been going on or what other weaknesses may be in the system waiting for an unscrupulous person to exploit. Can we continue to trust the tote system or do we even have any other choice?

"There needs to be total review of the system so everyone can feel good and see that these things are not widespread," New York Racing Association Vice President Bill Nader told the New York Times. "Without integrity in the way a wager is processed, we don’t have a sport."

NTRA has formed a Wagering Technology Task Group to look into these issues and will ask all the major tote companies to submit to a full security audit.

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