02/13/2003 12:00AM

Report: No lasting damage from scandal


The National Thoroughbred Racing Association released a report on Thursday saying that racing's image has not suffered any damage from the pick six scandal, which had raised serious concerns about the security of racing's betting networks late last year.

The report, prepared by the NTRA's Wagering Technology Working Group and a consulting firm headed by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, was described by NTRA officials as an interim update into the reforms and recommendations arising out of an extensive review of Thoroughbred racing's parimutuel system in the wake of the pick six scandal. A final report is not expected until later this year.

According to the report, 55 percent of people interviewed before the pick six scandal had a favorable opinion of racing, and 30 percent an unfavorable opinion. Those numbers "remained essentially the same" in follow-up surveys in the two months after the scandal took place, the NTRA said.

In addition to the information about racing's public image, the report said that investigators have not uncovered any unusual wagers so far during a review of pick six and pick four bets placed in 2002. However, the report warned that the review had not been completed and would take "several months" to finish.

Tote companies have all complied with recommendations to implement new procedures that would prevent anyone from manipulating a pick six or pick four bet after it was placed, the report said, closing the loophole exploited by the three former college fraternity brothers who succeeded in manipulating bets in the Breeders' Cup pick six and several other multi-leg wagers.

The three former fraternity brothers are scheduled to be sentenced in mid-March after all three entered guilty pleas late last year to federal conspiracy charges. The ringleader, Chris Harn, was an employee of Autotote who used his position at the company to enter a computer system at an offtrack betting company in New York to change a pick six ticket he placed through one of his co-conspirator's telephone betting accounts after four of the six races in the pick six had been run.

The NTRA said tote companies have all updated their software to verify that betting tickets have not been changed after each leg of a pick six or pick four has been run. The process is called "progressive scanning."

The report also said that attempts to review the security systems at the three major bet-processing companies - Autotote, United Tote, and AmTote - have been delayed "due to scheduling and legal issues." Those issues have been resolved, officials on the task force said Thursday, and the reviews are now underway.

"There were a substantial number of confidentiality issues that needed to be ironed out before the lawyers at the tote companies would allow an outside third party to come in and look at their systems," said a task force official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But those contracts are all done."

Officials at AmTote declined to comment on the reviews on Thursday, citing "security risks." Officials at Autotote and United Tote did not return phone calls.

The report was released the same day as an NTRA board meeting in Florida.

At the meeting, the NTRA conditionally approved the running of the Great State Challenge in 2003. The Great State Challenge was first run last year at Sam Houston Race Park as a way to pit representatives of different state breeding programs against each other.

The NTRA also heard reports about how the rapid growth of Magna Entertainment Corp., the largest racetrack operator in the country, is expected to impact the number of board seats allotted to different racetracks and regions. The NTRA will restructure how seats are allocated in time for 2004 board elections, a statement from the NTRA said.