North American race tracks have banished 16 Michigan harness drivers, owners, trainers and grooms for allegedly betting against their own horses or under-reporting winnings on tax returns, state officials say.
The 16 admitted the wrongdoing when confronted by officials after an investigation stemming from a Nov. 25 race at Sports Creek Harness Raceway in Swartz Creek, Deputy Racing Commissioner Barbara MacKenzie said Monday.
The 16 will be suspended for at least three years, and more charges are expected against other drivers, owners and patrons, MacKenzie said. The charges are civil and carry no criminal penalties.
“They are literally forbidden to go on the grounds of a race track in the United States or Canada,” MacKenzie said. “You can’t bet against yourself.”
The investigation by the Michigan Office of Racing Commissioner was prompted by a clerk who tipped security officials at the Genesee County race track after selling winning tickets to two drivers, she said.
Patrick Beeler, 21, of Jackson and Rob Kesler, 21, and Todd Warren, 24, both of Flint were charged with illegally betting against their own horses. They were also charged with attempting to influence the outcome of a race and failing to report total winnings to the Internal Revenue Service.
The 13 others included two other drivers, six grooms, three owners, a clerk and a patron.