One afternoon last summer at Chicago's Arlington Park race course Charles Marvin Woworsky—who was later described by his associates as a ruddy-faced, jovial Santa Claus type minus beard—was suddenly visited by an irrepressible desire not totally unknown among people who work with large bundles of cash.
Woworsky, 45, had gone to work in a bank at 15. Eighteen years later he switched to racing, and for 12 years he had worked diligently—and with a spotless record—in the mutuel departments of various Florida and Chicago tracks. Because he was so conscientious in his work he found himself last summer at Arlington with the impressive title of Third Floor Grandstand Branch Money Room Supervisor. In this capacity he accepted delivery of money from the track's Central Money Room and distributed it among the cashiers in his charge. It is calculable that cheerful Charlie Woworsky (whose salary was $31.25 per day) handled about $6 million each week.
Early in the afternoon of September 1, Woworsky received $132,000 from the Central Money Room. He was supposed to subdivide this into smaller sums from which the cashiers would subsequently pay off those bettors holding winning daily-double tickets. But a few moments before 2:20 p.m. Charlie Woworsky stepped with lively self-assurance through the only unguarded door of his section and out into what, for the moment at least, was a new world. In his pockets was $39,903.70 of Arlington Park's money, all that he could carry of the original sum he received.
Woworsky's surrender to his irrepressible desire and his subsequent actions, while appalling, were all the more surprising because of his long association with racing, which should have made him acutely aware of the cold fact that this is the most strictly policed of all sports. And, like all other people associated in any form with racing at the 49 member tracks of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations—people ranging from George D. Widener, Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and Willie Shoemaker on down to the youngest fuzzy-cheeked exercise boy—Woworsky should have known that a detailed FBI-like dossier on himself was on file with the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau.
The TRPB, the unique investigative arm of the entire Thoroughbred industry, makes it its business to know all about everyone in racing as well as all those who would like to get in. It has more than 200,000 names on file, along with 123,323 sets of fingerprints, details on 16,299 cases investigated and photos of lip tattoos on 86,174 horses who are racing or who have raced on U.S. tracks. Individual cards are loaded with information on a man's friends and acquaintances, police record, if any, betting habits, bank statements. No one receives a license or is employed at any of the 49 tracks until the TRPB gives him a clearance. Thus, former arsonists need not apply as stable-area night watchmen; nor should the professional forger hope to find a position handling pari-mutuel tickets.
The absence of Woworsky and the money did not go long undetected. In less than an hour and a half police officers in 14 states knew more about the missing man than did his coworkers. And when, several days later, the FBI picked up Charlie and his wife, Rovena, in a motel in Phoenix, Ariz., their arrest appeared to be just one more example of FBI efficiency. The missing money was almost all recovered: $14,906 in Mrs. Woworsky's purse, $20,000 hidden with a friend in Tucson and a $3,000 car in possession. Charlie Woworsky was sentenced to two years in prison.
Missing from the official statements, however, was the fact that it was the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau to whom the track had first turned for assistance and that it was TRPB agents in New York and Miami who dug into their own thick files and turned over to the FBI the leads which resulted in the arrest. The TRPB itself has no arresting power, although its agents are sometimes deputized by local sheriffs to make arrests. The usual TRPB procedure is to gather evidence and then enlist aid of city, county, state or federal agents to make the actual pinch.
FINDING A CHIEF
Fourteen years ago, when racing was caught up in the free-spending postwar boom, its leaders decided that public confidence in racing—always a target of whispers and rumors about crooked dealing—had to be enhanced. They decided to establish a self-policing body. FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover (a race-track fan himself) was consulted. He could not take on the job himself, Hoover told them, but he had a man who would do just fine. His name: Spencer J. Drayton. His qualifications: 14 years with the FBI, during which time he served as agent-in-charge in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Seattle, as special investigator in Washington and New York and as chief in Chicago.
Drayton knew nothing about racing when he took office in 1946 as the TRPB's first and only president. He learned fast. Operating with a staff of less than 100 men (most of them former FBI agents) on an annual budget of less than $600,000 (contributed by each of the TRA member tracks, 36 of whom now rely entirely on the TRPB for all track police supervision), Drayton has succeeded in making U.S. Thoroughbred racing the best-policed sport in the world. Constant investigations of alleged stimulations, counterfeiting of mutuel tickets and other fraudulent activities have discouraged most practitioners of such rackets. So successful has been the system of lip tattooing for horse identification that not a single ringer case has turned up at a TRA track since the program went into effect in 1946.
"We've spent 14 years getting rid of the bad actors in racing, and our No. 1 job now is to concentrate on keeping the wrong guys out before they get in," said Drayton recently. "No other sport has any really efficient system of self-policing at all. Do you realize that known gangsters and hoodlums are free to go to any sporting spectacle in the country except racing?" He took off his hornrimmed glasses and smiled faintly. "Not only go to other sports," he added, "but usually get the best seats, too. At a TRA track, if those same guys are lucky enough to get by the gate guards or plainclothesmen, we find them inside and throw them out.
"Known sharpies, crooks and tricksters [see box] are not permitted on TRA tracks. But whenever 30 million people handle $2 billion a year in bets you're going to find out that everyone isn't coming to race tracks straight from Sunday school. After all, banks are still being robbed. There will occasionally be new crooks who gain entrance and who prey on victims."
THE REAL MENACE
One of the worst menaces to racing today, says Drayton, is the tout, who is apt to bamboozle or defraud anybody hopeful of winning a bet. The smalltime operator who works the track crowds himself is not much of a problem. His face and methods are usually recognizable to TRPB agents, and if they see the fellow they throw him out. "It might be easier to clear touts off the tracks," says John L. Brennan, New York agent-in-charge, "if we had more cooperation from the victim. Unfortunately, however, human nature being what it is, a man who has been made a sucker of isn't too anxious to talk about it."
The tout over whom Drayton's men have little or no control—except for warning the bettor—is the big wheel who operates the mailing-list system without violating U.S. postal regulations. Like most quick money-making schemes, this one is ridiculously simple, and the successful mailing-list tout has been known to gross over $200,000 a year. Starting with 100,000 names (some solicited from newspaper advertisements, a metropolitan phone book or even by tracing auto registration plates noted at track parking lots), the mailing-list tout may break his "sucker account" into separate lists of 10,000 names each. Then, picking a 10-horse race, he gives each group of 10,000 the name of one of the 10 horses, with instructions for the client to bet $5, plus an additional $2 for the tout (the client is trusted to mail winnings to the tout). After the race he has 90,000 unhappy clients and 10,000 happy ones. The 90,000 are set aside for future exploitation. The 10,000 remainingnames are now broken down into groups of 1,000 and the same procedure followed, only this time the tout wants his customers to bet $10, with another $5 for himself. And so on.
By the time this breakdown-by-tens system has reduced the original 100,000 names to a lonely but unsuspecting 10 bettors they are a pretty joyful lot, having won four straight bets on the advice of a perfect stranger through the mail. In short, they think he's the greatest thing since Houdini, and, furthermore, he's on their side. It is now that the tout gives the 10 survivors his personal attention, often taking them to the track where he seats them in the best available boxes. He drives them around the stables, waving salutations to well-known trainers and discoursing knowledgeably on racing matters. He's now ready to get the big bet out of them: $1,000 for the client, $500 for himself. Whatever horse wins, the tout can't lose, and to make doubly sure of this he is not beyond offering to place their bets for them through a book which he himself actually runs.
Any gambling game will always be plagued by such schemers, but the more that is known about them, says the TRPB, the fewer gullibles will be left to be taken for a ride.
'BEWARES' FOR BETTORS
More for the sporadic track patron than for the sophisticated regular, Spencer Drayton offers some warnings.
1. Touts, alone or in teams, often try to gain your confidence by flashing forged identifying data (i.e., jockey's agent card) and will usually claim "inside stable information" or knowledge of allegedly "fixed" races.
2. Pickpockets prefer Saturdays and holidays, when the crowds are largest. They operate mostly on the apron of the grandstand during the running of a race, when the crowd's attention is diverted.
3. Some pickpockets watch for carelessly carried pari-mutuel tickets. Your tickets should be with your money—and your hands on both.
4. Don't bet the results of a photo finish with a stranger. The stranger could have a confederate on the finish line who signals the real winner before the number is posted.
5. Even for a bargain, never buy a mutuel ticket from a stranger. The ticket could be counterfeit. If the horse loses, the victim will never know of the fraud perpetrated on him, but if the horse wins and he attempts to cash the ticket he finds himself in trouble.
6. Never cash winning tickets for a stranger. Counterfeiters use innocent people to cash their forged mutuels.
7. Don't buy watches or jewelry from a stranger claiming he needs cash in order to get home. His jewelry is probably worth about one-tenth what you will pay for it.
8. Attractive lady strangers may volunteer to run bets for you to the windows, then claim to be holding your ticket for good luck. The fact that they have not actually bought a ticket at all becomes apparent only when a selected horse wins—at which time the "lady" leaves to collect and never returns.
9. Watch out for the three-card-monte operator around bus-boarding spots, parking lots and on race trains after the races.