Firm to Assess Computer Betting

Times Staff Writer

The horse racing industry has enlisted a major accounting firm and its team of high-tech security experts to help deal with the kind of computer betting scam that allegedly occurred during Breeders’ Cup races last month.

But even as experts began analyzing tote systems that handle wagers for tracks nationwide, a troubling question echoed across the sport: Might such scams have gone undetected in the past?

Executives from the accounting firm Ernst & Young said they have been hired only to assess the systems, not to review past activity. As yet, they are not even sure such a review would be possible.

Some track executives -- eager to win back mistrustful bettors -- remained hopeful.

“We’d welcome that kind of scrutiny,” said Rick Baedeker, president of Hollywood Park. “We have no reason to believe there have been other incidents but we want to be diligent in making sure that’s the case.”


As the industry pursued damage control, an investigation of the incident that sparked this concern reportedly widened to include a third person.

Racing officials became suspicious of the one ticket that accounted for all six of the winning Breeders’ Cup pick six wagers -- each worth $428,392. The ticket, purchased through an off-track account wagering service in upstate New York, used one horse in each of the first four races and all the horses in the final two races. It was purchased by Derrick Davis, a self-employed computer repairman from Baltimore, in a $12 denomination, costing $1,152.

Autotote, the company that processed the wager, subsequently fired one of its software engineers, Chris Harn, and claimed he rigged the ticket by inserting winners after four of the six races were run.

Harn and Davis attended Drexel University in the 1990s and were reportedly fraternity brothers. Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that another fraternity brother, Glen DaSilva of New York, is under investigation.

Though the $3 million in winnings -- which included consolation payoffs for five winners -- have been withheld, no one has been charged and attorneys for Harn and Davis said their clients are innocent.

Regardless of what investigators find, the industry has been staggered and the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. has convened the emergency panel that hired Ernst & Young.

“Obviously, we’re interested in any assistance,” said Craig Fravel, a Del Mar executive vice president and NTRA board member. “We’re being very open-minded and we think hiring outside experts is a positive step.”

Details of the accounting firm’s probe could be released after an NTRA meeting today. But searching for past scams by examining records from Autotote and two other tote companies that service American tracks would involve scrutinizing countless wagers.