Betting on football, basketball and baseball has become a huge nationwide business. Massive television exposure and the look-the-other-way attitude of league and club executives have helped propagate sports gambling's vast popularity. Most Americans tend to view such wagering as a naughty-but-nice diversion. Yet, from the Black Sox scandal of 1919 to the Tulane basketball fixes of last season, nothing has done more to despoil the games Americans play and watch than widespread gambling on them. As fans cheer their bets rather than their favorite teams, dark clouds of cynicism and suspicion hang over games, and the possibility of fixes is always in the air. This 32-page report on sports gambling examines several facets of the phenomenon. The first section deals with the scope and dangers of sports gambling. Other stories cover the surprising way the point spread is set in Vegas, the agonies of members of Gamblers Anonymous, the plight of the NFL quarterback trapped by his compulsion and the emotional confrontation between a former college basketball player who fixed games and an innocent teammate whom he had not seen in 25 years.
"We play hard, and we cover. We lead the league in covering the point spread."
—HUBIE BROWN, coach of the last-place New York Knicks
Sports gambling in America is this big: No one knows how big it is.
All one can say for sure is that this kind of gambling—wagering on the spectator sports of football, basketball or baseball, as opposed to pari-mutuel betting on racing or jai alai—has taken a grip on American life that is more powerful and more pervasive than ever before. It has, by every reliable indication, become a gigantic industry.
March 10, 1986
What is particularly noteworthy about this is that while other forms of gambling have become more widely legalized in the U.S., sports gambling has continued to be illegal everywhere, except for the singularly eccentric state of Nevada. For the record: Betting on horse races, dog races or jai alai is, in one form or another, legal in 36 states today, four more than allowed it 10 years ago. By contrast, sports bookmaking is a criminal act in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Under federal law, it is punishable by a maximum fine of $20,000 and/or five years in prison. Nevertheless, sports gambling gets bigger every day.
Whereas horse racing once was the chief source of financial nourishment for bookmakers, now the big play comes from professional and college team sports. One Chicago bookie, who estimated his annual handle at $1 million, told SI, "It used to be that 85 percent of my customers made bets on horses. Now it's just the opposite—90 percent of their bets are on [team] sports, with football way ahead, then basketball and baseball." Why the shift? "Television," says the bookie. "Television has done wonderful things for gambling in America." Indeed, it is generally agreed that TV exposure over the past two decades has been the single biggest reason gambling on pro and college football has soared. And it is no accident, the experts say, that with college basketball games now proliferating on the tube, there has been an upsurge in wagering on that sport.
The total dollar volume of betting on team sports today can only be guessed at. A decade ago the Justice Department estimated that illegal sports gambling was a $20-to-$25-billion-a-year business. Since then the department has pulled back on prosecuting many sports-gambling cases because of the difficulty of getting convictions and stiff sentences, and it still sticks pretty much to that figure. However, Francis Mullen, a corporate security executive who was in charge of the FBI's organized-crime investigations in 1980 and 1981 and later headed the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, estimated the figure at $70 billion in 1984. Even that number may be conservative. In 1981 the National Football League made its own estimate that pro football alone was attracting $50 billion a season.
According to the President's Commission on Organized Crime, illegal sports gambling is second only to drugs as a source of income for crime syndicates. But James Bittman, Chicago district chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, believes that gambling is the largest source and says that the Mob grosses $40 billion a year from it. Bittman says bookmakers in the Chicago area alone handle about $2 billion in bets annually. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to district attorney Henry Wade, $10 million or more is bet on college and pro games on a single football weekend. Even a cautious observer like Eugene Martin Christiansen, coauthor of a 1985 book on gambling, The Business of Risk, who accuses the law enforcement establishment and the media of inflating such figures for their own purposes, estimates that nearly $30 billion a year is wagered illegally in the U.S. Christiansen figures the profit on such activity to be $5 billion, roughly equivalent to what the nation's largest company, Exxon Corp., earned last year.
Vic Salerno, an ex-dentist turned professional bookmaker and the president of the Nevada Association of Race and Sports Book Operators, closely monitors sports gambling countrywide, legal and illegal. He is happy to note that legal sports wagering in his state has enjoyed a staggering growth. In 1974 there were only nine legal sports-gambling books in Nevada, handling just over $4.6 million a year. Ten years later, in fiscal 1984, there were 62 legal books that handled $808 million. In fiscal 1986, says Salerno, the Nevada handle will exceed $1 billion. "And there aren't even a million people in Nevada," Salerno says. "We're such a tiny part of the whole thing. Figure it out! What do you think they're doing in Philly, L.A., San Francisco? Extrapolate it out! The government says they think it's $40, $50 billion nationally. That's completely ridiculous! I know of a small rural town of 13,000 in Wisconsin, and that town alone has three illegal bookmakers. Three!"
The conclusion has to be that no one really knows exactly how much sports gambling is going on. "Whatever it is," says Emmett Michaels, who investigated unlawful gambling for the FBI for 17 years until he went into private business last June, "it's an epidemic."
Here are some of the ways you can use to measure this epidemic as it has come to affect sports in 1986:
•Sports gambling in America is so big that shills for the gambling industry have come to star on network TV. Pete Axthelm gives point-spread picks on NBC's pregame NFL show. Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder, who was convicted in 1963 of transporting gambling information across state lines and was pardoned by President Ford in 1974, offers his picks on CBS's pregame show. Snyder himself is impressed by his change of fortune. "I always tried to hide," he recently told SI's Robert H. Boyle. "I always ran away from you guys. Then I went public, on the square." Snyder has become so respectable that when Secretary of State George Shultz was asked at a press conference before the Geneva summit last fall about the prospects for fruitful arms-control negotiations between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, he actually began speculating on what the odds would have been "if Jimmy the Greek was here." Shultz said that the Greek might have fixed "the probability" of success at "something between point-two and point-four." When a reporter expressed bafflement, Shultz, speaking a handicapping language all his own, said he meant that the probability was between two and four out of 10.
•Sports gambling is so big that many coaches complain that the volume of their hate mail rises and falls not on whether they win or lose but on whether they beat the point spread. Barry Switzer, the Oklahoma football coach, says one of the reasons he quit going to cocktail parties a few years ago was his disgust at overhearing a respected businessman refer to him as "that bastard who cost me $5,000." Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers says he hears boos—"those low, throaty, ominous ones"—whenever he neglects to pad a lead that is still short of the implacable point spread. Jim Walden, the football coach at Washington State, says, "I am amazed at how many people will go out of their way to let me know they've lost money—even a dollar—on a WSU game. Betting is one of the main reasons people get down on coaches. I think there have been some stupid decisions made involving the firing of coaches because guys with money—and influence—are betting on games."
•Sports gambling is so big that before the Bears beat the Patriots 46-10 in the Super Bowl, bettors could get action in Nevada on almost anything, including the point spread (Bears by 10), the odds (4 to 1, Bears), winner of the pregame coin toss (even), which team would have the most yards penalized (New England 6 to 5), whether Walter Payton or Craig James would rush for more yards (Payton was a 7 to 5 pick), which player in the game would score first (New England's Tony Franklin, who did it, was 5 to 2) and over-under totals for everything from two-team point totals (37½ points) to one-team point totals (Patriots, 13½) to point totals for each quarter (e.g., 7½ in the third quarter) to the number of turnovers (five) or field goals (three). With such a smorgasbord for gamblers to choose from, some $35 million was bet legally on the game. The illegal handle on the Super Bowl was somewhat bigger: probably in the $1 billion range.
•Sports gambling is so big that, among more than 125 newspapers surveyed by the Associated Press Sports Editors, the percentage running betting lines increased in just two years—from 1982 to 1984—from 50% to 70% in college football and from 67% to 77% in the NFL. Many of the papers also carry betting tips and advice. The rationale of sports editors is that it's news and they are providing a service. But Joe Vecchione of The New York Times, which refuses to run betting lines, says that "newspapers do not have a responsibility to encourage illegal acts, but to discourage them." Bob Knight, the Indiana basketball coach and a critic of sports gambling and the press, says that papers "might just as well run the telephone numbers of prostitutes." Walden says, "I think the media carrying betting information is detestable. It breeds dishonesty." Maybe so, but readers apparently demand it. After Greg Noble, sports editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer, declared last summer that he would no longer print point spreads, he got so many angry phone calls that the paper reinstated them.
•Sports gambling is so big that there are at least 700 tout services dispensing gambling information freely across state lines—the largest through toll-free long-distance phone numbers. The touts even have their own trade group, the American Association of Documented Sports Services. Two days before Super Bowl XX, USA Today ran a full page of ads for tout services—33 in all—promising to provide the winner of the big game. The services have names like Prophet Line Sports and Winners Circle, Inc., and they range from tiny mom-and-pop operations to full-blown corporate entities with dozens of high-pressure telephone salesmen, some of whom earn as much as $50,000 a year in commissions. Legally, the tout services cannot book or place bets. What they sell is information and advice for gamblers. It costs anywhere from $25 to $175 for a single game pick to $2,000 for a full season's slate. The largest services accept Visa or MasterCard. Sadly, the tout services even captured a couple of old NFL stars. Johnny Unitas and Billy Kilmer have lent their good names to these enterprises. Unitas has severed his connection, but Kilmer's direct-mail pitch conjures up visions of "Bundles and Bundles of Cold Hard Cash" and provides his assurances that he is "winning more money than I ever made playing football."
•Sports gambling is so big that not even the Greek and his colleagues on network TV, not even the published line and handicapping selections in the newspapers, not even those 700-odd tout services, are quite enough. In this garden of excess, gambling shows on cable TV have also blossomed. On ESPN during the past NFL playoffs you could have watched Sportsline, a half-hour show from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas that provided the lines and pregame dope on upcoming games. Not to be outdone, USA Network offered its Beat the Pros show. Jim Zrake, the executive producer of sports for USA, recently told the Los Angeles Times that he doubted that the show would be picked up again next season. But he also said, "Looking at it professionally, I don't think it's terribly wrong. As a programmer, we try to provide something for everyone."
•Sports gambling is so big that Los Angeles police last December arrested five people they said were part of a ring that took in an estimated $1.5 million a week in sports bets, including $450,000 by phone in about an hour. Big-bucks sports gambling also goes on in small towns and on college campuses. A week before the L.A. bust, 11 present or former University of Nebraska students were arrested in Lincoln on bookmaking charges. Campus police said their investigation revealed fraternity members stealing from one another to pay off debts that ran as high as $8,000. They said that 30 students had acted as "runners" and that one student-bookie handled $112,000 in bets in just 12 weeks. The Omaha World-Herald quoted one Nebraska student-bookmaker as calling the arrests "the tip of the iceberg" at the school and saying, "It's no problem for me to do $5,000 to $6,000 worth of action a weekend."
Clearly, sports gambling in this country has grown to gargantuan proportions in recent years. It has also gained a widespread acceptance and public respectability that would certainly have outraged Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The effect on sports of so much gambling is to make the game less important than the bet. The immediate expression of this misdirected priority is the cheering in the stands for teams to beat not the opponent but the point spread. The ultimate expression is the fixed game. And here is the crux of gambling's dark influence on sport: The one consistent despoiler of our games—from the Black Sox scandal of 1919 to the fixed fights, fixed races and fixed college basketball games of the last four decades—is gambling. It is important to remember that sports events are fixed because of gambling and for no other reason.
It is not being overly dramatic to say that gambling poisons the atmosphere of any game it comes near. It is certainly one of the reasons that so many fans are so quick to think the worst about athletes and the games they play. Gambling accounts for much of the cynicism that hangs over sports. Before a recent Super Bowl, SI's Martin Dardis found himself sitting next to the father of the favored team's backup quarterback. Dardis said he hoped the son got into the game. "I don't—I gave 13 points," replied the father. He may have been joking, but in the prevailing climate it seems only too likely that a father would indeed put his betting interest ahead of seeing his own boy play in the Super Bowl.
Sports gambling is now generally seen as a naughty-but-nice diversion, yet at times it is anything but that. It is easy to lose sight of its violent side. Last year Hal Smith, a major North Side Chicago bookmaker, was beaten, slashed and tortured, and his body was stuffed into the trunk of his Cadillac. Afterward, it was revealed that his book had reached an annual gross of $140 million. From this, Smith's take-home pay would have been between $3 and $4 million. John Walsh, an IRS agent in Chicago, says Smith's health was in jeopardy from the moment IRS agents raided his home in 1983 and found $600,000 in cash in a canvas bag. Walsh says that the discovery didn't sit well with organized crime bosses who believed Smith was stiffing the Mob.
Despite such vivid reminders of sports gambling's jungle environment and despite the dramatic increase in such gambling, chasing bookmakers is no longer considered cost effective for law enforcement agencies. As William Hundley, former head of the Justice Department's organized crime section, former NFL security director and now a Washington lawyer, explains it, many judges have accepted "the inevitable—that gambling is part of the game." Former Attorney General William French Smith says, "We have been outmanned and outgunned in the war on gambling." But Hundley says, "We have just been out-p.r.'d."
Any attempt that is made to wage an effective campaign against gambling immediately runs afoul of several persistent myths that have flourished on the subject. They include:
Myth I: The legalization of sports betting will benefit everyone except organized crime.
The idea that legalized—and therefore taxed—sports gambling will not only pave roads and paint schoolhouses but will also lessen gambling's harmful influence draws guffaws from those who have given the notion more than a cursory evaluation. Ex-FBI agent Michaels says that one thing the growth of sports gambling in Nevada did was "plug in a whole new generation of bettors. You now see kids in the schoolyard with tout sheets sticking out of their back pockets." Nor does organized crime take to its heels in the face of legalization. Quite the contrary. James Harmon, executive director of the President's Commission on Organized Crime, points out that far from fleeing Las Vegas when gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, the Mob actually gravitated there in quest of the enormous cash flow that legal gambling can produce. "When you legalize gambling, the illegal percentage goes up no matter what you do," says Harmon.
Like drug legalization, legal gambling holds appeal for those who believe that the solution to anything difficult to eliminate through law enforcement is to make it legal. What legalization advocates tend to overlook is that when illegal operators rush in behind legalized gambling, they often eat up a good-size piece of the anticipated tax-revenue pie. Sergeant John Sparkman, a member of the Atlantic City police department's crime analysis unit, says, "We just put 35 more men on at a cost of over a million dollars. We have about 425 men now, which is an increase of 125 since the casinos opened in 1978." That increase is necessary because crime in Atlantic City is up about 300% since casino gambling was legalized there. The quality of life has been adversely affected in other ways. Says Sparkman, "There's not one movie theater here or one bowling alley. It's not a family-oriented place anymore. As far as I'm concerned, it's the worst thing that ever happened to this city."
Myth II: The administrators of sport are so fearful of fixed games that they do everything in their power to thwart the gambling influence.
To be sure, the people who run sports on both the pro and college levels are, without exception, genuinely fearful of fixed games. But being against fixes is one thing; trying to do something about gambling is quite another. Administrators do speak out against the expansion of legalized gambling. They also warn athletes and club officials to beware of suspicious characters, to stay away from the wrong kinds of establishments and not to gamble on games. Security departments are maintained to investigate rumors and watch for telltale fluctuations in betting lines.
The NCAA has put together an antigambling task force and recommends that its membership "refrain from cooperating with any publication that depends on 'tout and tip-sheet' advertising revenue." The NCAA has a policy of withholding credentials for the Final Four basketball tournament from publications that have too much of a pro-gambling slant. Because of all the tout-service ads it carried, USA Today was barred from the press box at the 1984 NCAA Division I-AA football championship.
The Pac-10, ACC and Mid-America conferences have all requested—apparently to no avail—that the media in their areas quit publishing and broadcasting betting lines. St. John's basketball players are required to sign an oath that they will report any attempted bribes. Dave Cawood, assistant executive director of the NCAA and the man in charge of its anti-gambling activities, says, "The best thing is to keep on talking about gambling. Make everyone constantly aware of the gambling presence. We've already had two scandals in five years [Tulane and Boston College]. Now we want everyone to be aware—and alarmed—about the danger of it happening again."
But all too often, sports officials give the impression that they really don't object that much to gambling, especially when it puts more fans in the stands. Certainly the considerable contribution of gambling to pro football's popularity is not lost on NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. Some people contend that gambling is what gave the NFL its great popularity, and Rozelle did nothing to refute that notion in an interview on NBC's NFL '85 show last Nov. 17. Asked point-blank whether he would push a button to eliminate all gambling on NFL games if such a magical button existed, Rozelle danced around the question without flatly saying that he would do so. And when asked about the importance of point spreads to the popularity of the NFL, he merely said, "I don't think [they're] as big a drawing card as the game itself."
The NFL's seemingly tolerant attitude toward gambling appears to be shared by the TV networks. This shouldn't be surprising because televised pro football is as connected to the gambling experience as a man's leg is to his hip. The networks need full armchairs—people anchored in front of sets watching games. It doesn't matter that the viewer is watching a Seattle vs. Kansas City blowout from his parlor in Rutland, Vt. It doesn't matter that the game is one-sided, boring, full of mistakes. What matters is that the point spread is in doubt. What matters is that the man in Vermont has something going. So each week, millions of gamblers—from the $1 office-pool player to the most desperate $50,000 plunger—habitually tune in to NFL games they could have no earthly reason to watch except to follow a bet. Many of them track their picks, hypnotized, hour after hour, Sunday after Sunday, through all kinds of NFL games, be they monstrosities or masterpieces.
The networks try to play down their dependence on—and encouragement of—gambling. Neal Pilson, executive vice-president of CBS Sports, for example, insists that Jimmy the Greek is on the air merely because he's a "personality." Don Ohlmeyer, an original ABC Sports whiz kid, later executive producer of NBC Sports and now an independent producer, says the networks have never encouraged gambling because it is "a destructive thing, a disease," as witnessed by what he calls "sick, degenerate" gamblers who "bet on the first half, the second half, the over-and-under, on everything." But when NBC's Bryant Gumbel asked Pete Axthelm in an interview earlier this year whether he might not be promoting gambling with the detailed NFL point-spread information he provided, the Ax replied, "Oh, definitely. I think gambling is great fun."
So why blame the NFL for any of this? Here's one reason: According to the NCAA's Cawood, the colleges have "made our position known from the beginning to the TV networks" by stating flatly that they want no Axthelm-style touting on college sports telecasts. The NFL has refrained from doing the same thing, the official explanation being that it doesn't want to be accused of trying to control TV's editorial product. But industry sources say that the NFL could easily have made the exclusion of touts an issue during rights negotiations. Bob Tassie, vice-president of communications for CBS, says, "The NFL has always had a very public antigambling profile that it would prefer networks not have those people on the shows, but in private it seems to run away from the issue."
The public antigambling stance taken by both the NFL and the networks fails to fool one of the greatest living experts on sports gambling, Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal, 56, a former handicapper, line-maker and casino operator who pleaded nolo contendere in 1963 to a charge of attempting to fix a college basketball game and, in 1983, suddenly retired to a seaside community south of Los Angeles after members of his peer group blew up his Cadillac in Las Vegas—with him in it. "Television actively encourages millions of people to gamble," says Rosenthal. "Who are they kidding? When the NFL publishes its weekly injury lists, it's for gamblers. When CBS says, 'We'll be right back with Jimmy the Greek,' who are they appealing to? When on NBC the Ax says, 'Bet these,' what kind of advice is that?"
Over the years, Rozelle has taken a number of strong anti-gambling actions, including the suspension of Paul Hornung and Alex Karras in 1963 for betting on games, the enforced dissociation of Joe Namath from his Bachelors III restaurant in Manhattan because it was frequented by gambler/ hoodlum types, and the suspension in 1983 of Baltimore Colt quarterback Art Schlichter for heavy gambling. The NFL now says it issues 10 to 12 warnings a year to specific players about associating with gamblers and, like the other professional sports leagues, it likes to give the impression that it has an efficient security staff that pounces on cases involving improper associations.
In point of fact, the NFL often doesn't act on players' gambling activities and associations until it is hit in the face with them—and perhaps not even then. Hornung told SI that there were 10 or 12 other Green Bay Packer players who regularly wagered on NFL games in the team's glory days. He said that betting on games by players was rampant throughout the league. Nevertheless, only he and Karras were suspended. It speaks further of the NFL's laxity in gambling-related matters that Schlichter was suspended by Rozelle only after he had been betting for years and had run up massive debts to bookmakers who threatened to break his passing arm. Finally, in desperation, Schlichter took his woes to the FBI, which contacted the NFL.
NFL executive vice-president Jay Moyer says that the league spends "close to a million dollars a year" on security and has part-time representatives in every NFL city and three full-time regional reps. "There are a lot of resources we can't muster," Moyer says. "We're not monolithic. We don't have unlimited manpower and resources." Nevertheless, Moyer insists that the NFL has been "effective" in its efforts to minimize gambling's influence on players and officials.
What, then, of the league's total ignorance of the fact that one of its quarterbacks had run up nearly $400,000 in gambling debts? Moyer says that the NFL was in the dark about Schlichter because the player had been dealing with "freelance, small-time" bookmakers and that "the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies had never heard of [Schlichter's] penchant for sports gambling until he contacted them." But one of the reasons the NFL and other leagues maintain nationwide security networks is that law-enforcement officials don't aggressively police sports gambling. The leagues supposedly want to be able to quickly discover worrisome activities on their own. At any rate, law-enforcement agencies in Ohio had been aware of Schlichter's fondness for gambling at the racetrack, if not with bookies, since his senior year at Ohio State (see story on page 74).
The evidence is that in dealing with gambling, as with other problems such as cocaine use by players, abuse of anabolic steroids and artificial turf-related injuries, the NFL dodges and downplays, acting only when a substantive problem also becomes a p.r. problem. Don Meyer, a former regional director for the Drug Enforcement Administration and now security director for a computer equipment firm in Fort Lauderdale, worked as an NFL security consultant in the wake of former player Don Reese's revelations about widespread cocaine use among NFL players (SI, June 14, 1982). Meyer says of Rozelle's approach to security matters: "His whole thing was that he was worried about exposés. He didn't want to get blindsided. He wanted to be prepared to deal with it if it became public."
The NFL seems especially inclined to gloss over gambling associations and activities of team owners and other front-office personnel. To fully appreciate the pervasiveness of the gambling influence on the NFL, you must remember that the league's nativity was attended by gambling men and that the game owes its existence partly to their kind. G.A. Richards, the original owner of the Detroit Lions, was a two-fisted gambler who bet on his own games. Mickey McBride, the original Browns owner, operated a racetrack wire that was believed to service bookies. Tim Mara, a legal bookie and promoter, is said to have used money he had won the day before betting on the horses at Belmont to purchase the New York Giants for $500 in 1925. Art Rooney, founder of the Steelers, is a legendary horseplayer who once won more than $200,000 at the track on a single weekend. Charlie Bidwill, the former Cardinals owner whose son Bill now owns the team, made his fortune operating racetracks.
The late Carroll Rosenbloom, who owned the Colts and later the Rams, gambled heavily and once had an interest in a casino in Cuba. Leonard Tose, who sold the Eagles last year, was thought to have done so partly because of heavy gambling debts. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, he borrowed $400,000 in one night of gambling in Atlantic City. San Francisco 49ers owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. and his family have interests in three racetracks.
Dave Meggyesy, the Western regional director of the NFL Players Association, says the one question he keeps asking himself whenever he hears about gambling connections with league owners is this: "Where do they get these guys? There must be hundreds of qualified guys with plenty of money who'd love to own an NFL team. They had to know about Rosenbloom and Tose. It doesn't make sense."
There is also the case of John Shaw, 34, the Rams' vice-president of finance. He has been in the club's front office since 1980 and, as a confidant of owner Georgia Frontiere, Rosenbloom's widow, gets involved in contract negotiations and is presumably privy to much inside information about the Rams and the NFL. During a divorce-related court proceeding in 1984, Shaw's ex-wife, Suzanne, accused him of having "gambled excessively over the last several years." Four sources who have known Shaw for many years told SI's Armen Keteyian that Shaw's gambling goes back to his high school and college days in San Diego. One childhood friend, Chuck Gullickson, said that Shaw hung out at Serra Mesa Recreation Center and was known as someone "who would give you a bet on anything—he'd bet you on the next pitch at a baseball game, if you wanted." Dave Rock, a former rec leader at the center, described Shaw as "kind of our resident bookie."
Shaw received a law degree in 1976 from New York University. He then became a tax accountant at Arthur Andersen & Co. in Los Angeles, where an associate, Susan Amster, recalls being told by others that his code name with bookies was Mayfield, the name of a street he and Suzanne Shaw once lived on.
One of the people interviewed about Shaw said that after joining the Rams, he bet on NFL games, including some involving the Rams, as well as on other sports. The source said that Shaw used the name Mayfield in placing bets with Alyn Brannon, who was convicted for bookmaking in Orange County in 1979 and 1981. Salvatore Consalvo, who said he was Brannon's phone man and runner at the time, said he took phone bets from a "May-field" for "about a year, four or five years ago." Another name linked to Shaw is Alan Dorfman. Sources say that Shaw has maintained a friendship with Dorfman; Elaine Michea, a former Rams secretary, says that Dorfman occasionally visited Shaw's office. In 1983 Dorfman was charged with felony book-making after a raid on his apartment, according to Los Angeles court records, turned up betting "books...papers, apparatus, device [and] paraphernalia." The charge was dropped because of insufficient evidence, but a demand for payment of taxes was filed the day after the raid by the California Franchise Tax Board, which estimated Dorfman's 1983 taxable income at $3.5 million. SI could find no record that the taxes in question have been paid.
Shaw, Brannon and Dorfman all refused to talk to SI, and the NFL would not discuss the Shaw case. But last fall Keteyian visited Suzanne Shaw to ask her about her ex-husband's gambling history. Two weeks later, according to Mrs. Shaw, NFL security director Warren Welsh phoned her. She said that Welsh questioned her about her husband's gambling and told her, "It's not right for you to talk to SI." She said it was her impression that Welsh was at least as concerned with hushing things up as he was with getting to the bottom of the matter. It is not known what, if any, action the NFL has taken involving Shaw, but one source quoted the Rams executive as claiming to have quit gambling since learning of SI's interest in his activities.
Like the NFL, major league baseball has also tended to concentrate on appearances rather than reality in dealing with gambling. When he was commissioner, Bowie Kuhn made a considerable show of banning Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays from the game because of their jobs as casino shills. Of course, in retirement Mantle and Mays had little to do with the game anyway. Two owners in a position to have affected the integrity of baseball, the Yankees' George Steinbrenner and former Pirates boss John Galbreath, also were involved with legal gambling—they had racetrack interests—but Kuhn took no action against them.
When he reinstated Mantle and Mays early last year, Kuhn's successor, Peter Ueberroth, was careful to warn against gambling's potentially harmful influence on baseball. But Ueberroth's strong words failed to prevent Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda from hobnobbing openly with Joseph Peter DeCarlis, a.k.a. Joe DiCarlo, a reputed associate of the late L.A. bookmaker and organized crime figure Mickey Cohen. In a 1982 hearing before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, a casino security file was introduced that identified DiCarlo, who has worked as an entertainment agent and night club manager, as having allegedly provided organized crime with prostitutes and associated with reputed bookmakers. DiCarlo has been a frequent visitor to Lasorda's Dodger Stadium office and was listed as a bona fide Lasorda pal in the acknowledgments of his 1985 autobiography The Artful Dodger.
Years ago commissioner Happy Chandler suspended Leo Durocher when he couldn't get him to quit hanging around with known gamblers. When Lasorda was asked by SI about DiCarlo, he said that he had never heard a peep about the man from baseball's security force or from anybody else. "I don't know anything about him." Lasorda insisted. "Nothing about his past. Not until you told me. I'll not see him again." Informed of Lasorda's relationship with DiCarlo, baseball's security director, Harry Gibbs, expressed surprise. "Sure it bothers me, if it's true," Gibbs said. "I'll have to look into it."
Contacted by SI's Greg Kelly, DiCarlo called Lasorda "a friend of mine." He indicated that he had also visited at the ball park with Dodger players. Insisting that there was no reason for concern about his relationship with baseball personnel, DiCarlo claimed that he had never been convicted of any crime. When Kelly noted that his record showed a 1948 conviction and prison term for mail theft, DiCarlo said. "Oh, yes, I remember that." He also acknowledged having socialized with Mickey Cohen and possibly other bookmakers. But he emphatically denied any involvement in prostitution. And. he said. "[Lasorda] is one of the straightest guys in the world. To say he's tainted for knowing me, that's wrong, 1,000 percent wrong."
The question remains why baseball didn't have the same knowledge of the allegations against DiCarlo that the casino industry had. "It's impossible to know everybody's background," Gibbs said. "We do our best."
Myth III: Football, basketball and baseball games are much more difficult to fix today because of the sophistication of communications, the accuracy and sensitivity of the betting line, and the warning signals that big shifts in betting patterns inevitably throw out.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Fixing games is easier than ever. This is the view of the President's Commission on Organized Crime. It is the view of the law enforcement agents who helped break the Boston College and Tulane point-shaving cases in recent years. It is also the view of people on the dark side of the equation—especially bookmakers.
This is the real situation: The sheer dollar volume of betting nowadays is such that really big bets of $100,000 or more are no longer a rarity. The huge sums being wagered can absorb almost any bet, no matter how big. At any rate, fixes have usually involved smaller bets than $100,000—and not necessarily in single lump sums.
There is also the more subtle—and infinitely more insidious—matter of the philosophical environment that has come to engulf American sports in the '80s. There is no longer an automatic assumption of simon purity, good sportsmanship or team loyalty among athletes. Sport is a big business where opportunism and selfishness abound. College athletes are surrounded by bribing alumni, grade-twisting administrators and profit-driven athletic directors.
Sports psychologist Thomas Tutko puts it this way: "Big-time college sport doesn't build character, it warps it. Fixing a game is relative. 'I got the grade changed. I don't think shaving a game by a couple of points is so bad.' "
Digger Phelps, the basketball coach at Notre Dame, says, "The atmosphere today around college sport is scary. Everybody bets. And when students bet on games, what kind of pressure does that put on players who might not have the upbringing or the character to withstand it? What happens at the dorm? In the lunchroom? You have to ask yourself, 'How much of it is my fault? What kind of character did I look for when I brought these kids in here?' When you bring these kids in here with no discipline, with no loyalty to self or team or school, with an I-can-get-whatever-I-want attitude, it's a pretty short hop to 'I can fix a basketball game.' I think we are sitting on a time bomb."
Washington State's Walden does, too. He says, "I warn my kids about gamblers at least every two weeks. I tell them to be sure they know who is calling about injuries: You might think you're not a part of this stuff, then all of a sudden one of your key players gets hurt and you ask your players on a Friday night, 'Did you get any calls from anyone about the team's health?' Boy, you would be surprised how many say yes. In 1984 when our quarterback, Mark Rypien, cut his hand, I had at least five players tell me they had calls from people they knew were not sports people asking about the injury. That worries me."
The danger is certainly not confined to college sports. One major, almost universal misjudgment made by pro sports executives is the assumption that the astronomical salaries paid to players are a near-perfect deterrent to any temptation to fix games. Rozelle has said, "The only blessing about the crazy salaries players are getting these days is that they don't need the money they could get by fixing games." The NBA's security director, Jack Joyce, agrees: "One of the big things in our favor today is that players' salaries are so great that the possibility of someone paying them off is greatly reduced. Of course, I'm not saying it can't happen."
Indeed, the way it can happen is with the addition of drugs to the sports environment. Joyce himself says, "We've always been aware that if a fellow does get into cocaine heavy, well, he can go through $200,000 or $300,000 a year. So then the bad guy can come to him and say, 'Why are you putting up so much bread for coke? Tell you what, we'll give you all the top-quality stuff you need. All you have to do is give us two, maybe three games a year.' " Peter B. Bensinger, ex-chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and now president of a Chicago firm dealing with drug and alcohol problems in industry, is alarmed about the same thing: "Someone on coke is the perfect prey for the gambler. A coke habit can easily bankrupt millionaires. It costs $5,000 to $8,000 a week. Suppliers can control a man's play, get him to perform all sorts of deeds in exchange for high-quality stuff."
The possibility that gamblers might use drugs to get their hooks into athletes for purposes of rigging games is a nightmare that may have come true at Tulane, where the student fixers in last year's point-shaving scandal allegedly befriended Green Wave basketball players by giving them cocaine. It is worth noting that, according to law enforcement sources, Shelby Greer, one of the men convicted in Pittsburgh last year of selling cocaine to baseball players, was a bettor on professional sports. And that in court appearances a U.S. attorney and an FBI agent both said that another man convicted of selling drugs to ballplayers, Dale Shiffman, made his living for a number of years by gambling as well as dealing in drugs. And that former NFL security consultant Meyer has told SI that several Cleveland Brown players received drugs in the early 1980s from Frank Sumpter and his son Michael. Frank, who died in 1983, was, according to a Cleveland law enforcement official, a major bookmaker and gambler. Michael is now serving a 30-year federal prison sentence for drug trafficking. He is also said by authorities to have been a heavy gambler.
The case of the Sumpters is particularly disturbing, if only because of the NFL's apparent inaction in dealing with it. Meyer said he informed league headquarters in a November 1982 "situation report" of possible links between Browns players and the Sumpters. According to the NFL's Moyer, the league notified the Cleveland club, which subsequently warned players to stay away from the Sumpters. Ted Chappelle. Browns security director, said through a spokesman that players were indeed made aware of the Sumpters. "I have an extensive file on them," said Chappelle. He said that running back Charles White, who was with the Browns in those years, was one of the players the club told about the Sumpters.
But White, who underwent drug rehabilitation in 1982, doesn't remember it that way. He told SI that neither Chappelle nor any other team official spoke to him about the Sumpters. "A player told me," White recalled, "but not the club." And Sam Rutigliano, coach of the Browns at the time, said that the NFL never mentioned the Sumpters to him or any players. "There is no way in the world the league could have gone to anyone in our organization without me knowing," he said. He insisted that he had never heard about the Sumpters until SI asked him about them. At the time, Rutigliano had been working in a unique rehabilitation program with 11 Browns who were admitted cocaine users, and it seems likely he would have been aware of the Sumpters through them.
Why didn't Rutigliano know about the Sumpters if the Browns' security director had a file on them? Chappelle said, "It wasn't any of Sam's business. Sam doesn't get involved in all my business."
Obviously, cocaine introduces a whole new dimension to sports gambling. Former Miami Dolphin defensive back Lloyd Mumphord recently told SI's Dardis that when he was playing for the club in the early '70s, he went fishing with and bought stolen jewelry from Raymond L. Capri, a Miami man who was convicted of assault in 1975. Mumphord said that he and several Dolphin teammates partied at Capri's house and that they were supplied cocaine by Capri. He said that Capri listened to the players discuss team injuries and that he believed that Capri passed this information along to gamblers. Questioned by Dardis, Capri admitted using cocaine on several occasions with Dolphin players and said that he sometimes was the one supplying it, but he denied passing any information to gamblers. He said that he did hear players discuss injuries but "didn't use [the information] in any gambling fashion."
Associations between players and gamblers may not seem as objectionable to many people in today's pro-gambling climate as they once did, nor does the actual throwing of games cause the same sense of outrage. Rick Kuhn, who was paroled in January after serving 29 months in prison for his part in the Boston College fixes, was brought before the President's Commission on Organized Crime last summer and in a soft voice said that he did not think his experience would act as a deterrent to future fixers. He said, "People have become sympathetic toward me. They forget I committed a serious crime."
The Kuhn case is a good example of how difficult it is to catch point shavers. FBI agent Ed Guevara was in charge of the government investigation of Kuhn and his cronies in the BC case. According to Guevara, there never would have been any indictments, possibly never even any clear indication that the fixes had occurred, if someone hadn't voluntarily come forward to confess. "We were debriefing [New York gangster] Henry Hill on the Lufthansa heist at JFK airport," recalls Guevara, "and I asked him, 'Henry, what were you doing in Boston?' He said, 'I was fixing college basketball games.' " That was the first law enforcement officials knew about the Boston College fixes. Guevara says that it is all but impossible to detect fixes by any other method. "Either you have somebody who confesses, or you don't find out about it," he says.
Aaron Wagman fixed games for a living 25 years ago. He went to prison in the early 1960s, after he was found guilty of attempting to bribe a Florida halfback, and later was also convicted of fixing college basketball games. Recently Dardis and Si's Douglas S. Looney found Wagman, now 52, living in upstate New York and involved in a portrait photo business. He was in hot water with creditors and was fighting cocaine-possession charges brought against him by local police last October.
Wagman was eager to talk about his years as a fixer. He told his visitors that he had fixed more than 100 college basketball games in his heyday. He said he probably profited by about $100,000 from fixes over a four-year period. Wagman said he made money by "selling" his fixes to big-time gamblers, who sometimes bet as much as $200,000 on a single game.
Wagman has not lost all contact with athletes. He said that in 1983 he went to St. Louis and had lunch with Harold Lewis, then an associate in the photo business and also a sports agent, and several members of the football Cardinals. Wagman said that he hoped to sell the players shares of a harness horse he was trying to syndicate for a friend but that the players didn't buy in. Lewis confirmed that the get-together took place.
It is disturbing to think of a convicted fixer like Aaron Wagman having such easy access to NFL players for any purpose. It is also disturbing that the NFL's Moyer, when asked if the league's security force had any knowledge of Wagman's meeting with Cardinal players, said that it did not and that, in fact, "we draw a blank on [Wagman's] name. We know nothing about him." But it is most disturbing of all to hear what an old game-rigging hand like Wagman thinks about the business of fixing games in the 1980s.
"Obviously, it's still going on, except it's worse now because the players are worse," Wagman said. "They don't give a damn." Asked if, in his opinion, anything had changed in the game-fixing business over the last 25 years, Wagman replied, "Nothing—except that it's more attractive now than ever."
SPORTS BRIBERY STATUTE
Title 18 USC, Section 224 Bribery in Sporting Contests
(a) Whoever carries into effect, attempts to carry into effect, or conspires with any other person to carry into effect any scheme in commerce to influence, in any way, by bribery any sporting contest, with knowledge that the purpose of such scheme is to influence by bribery that contest, shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.