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NHL gambling story headed down a darker path
2006-02-09 18:45
by Bob Timmermann

Updating this bit of news, the Newark Star-Ledger reports that Wayne Gretzky did discuss the gambling ring run by his assistant coach Rick Tocchet, who is now headed to New Jersey to face arraignment.

Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, is reported to have bet $500,000 with Tocchet including $75,000 on the Super Bowl and bet on who would win the coin toss. Apparently, she won that bet and won $5,000.

The NHL would be much better off if it just had a steroids problem.

Update - Damien Cox of the Toronto Star looks at the NHL's relationship with gambling. Also Off-Wing Opinion covers the story in more detail.

Summary of the legal troubles faced by Tocchet.

2006-02-09 11:34:31
1.   misterjohnny
I'm not sure why the Gretzy angle is such a big deal. Lots of people gamble. Forget the moral aspects, everybody does it and almost every state condones (encourages?) it. With the expansion of internet gambling sites and their "legitimacy" (the expectation that when you win you will actually receive your winnings), even more people are gambling on sports. Is it because its a lot of money? Well, they have a lot of money. Did they bet on hockey? No? Then let it go.
2006-02-09 11:41:42
2.   Bob Timmermann
There is a matter of whether or not the principals involved did some other troublesome stuff like reporting this income to the IRS.
2006-02-09 11:59:51
3.   grandcosmo
I'm sure that the New Jersey state police are not concerned with the morality of the gambling ring so much as the legality of it.

And I wouldn't say that everybody does it. Of all the people I know a very small percentage of them bet with a bookmaker.

2006-02-09 12:24:03
4.   DXMachina
It's also the fact that Gretzky is arguably the greatest and most popular player in NHL history, a guy whose image has always been pretty squeaky clean. It's as if Lou Gehrig gave his speech, and was then dragged away in irons for running numbers in the Yankees locker room.
2006-02-09 12:31:02
5.   misterjohnny
Since when is a tax problem a national story?

What is the difference, with regard to the bettor, between betting with an online sportsbook and betting with a bookie?

Tochet got involved with organized crime and was part of a bookmaking operation - story. Famous people placed bets - titilating, but not a real story.

2006-02-09 13:20:52
6.   Ali Nagib
One does have to wonder why athletes and coaches with (relatively) large sums of money at their disposal would even risk betting in this type of ring, rather than just placing internet bets off-shore. That aside, there are two main reasons why this is (and probably should be) a national story

1) We don't know for sure at this point whether or not hockey was bet on, but it is very likely that future developments of this story will make this a much bigger deal than it seems right now

2) Even if hockey wasn't bet on, the fact that they were apparently dealing with mobsters at least brings in the possibility that the integrity of the sport could have been compromised, which is a huge deal even if it didn't actually happen (obviously no one should be banned/jailed for what COULD have happened, but that doesn't make it less of an important story).

2006-02-09 13:27:44
7.   grandcosmo
5. >>Since when is a tax problem a national story.

When Pete Rose pled guilty to tax evasion in 1990 and went to prison it was a pretty big story.

2006-02-09 14:02:35
8.   Ali Nagib
Also Al Capone
2006-02-09 15:11:37
9.   Butter
Don't forget Willie Nelson...
2006-02-09 15:18:22
10.   Bob Timmermann
So we can look forward to a series of concerts and CDs with the tunes of Rick Tocchet in order to pay off his debts?
2006-02-09 15:23:07
11.   das411
What I'd like to see addressed is, how could somebody who played the game like Tocchet possibly affect the outcome of games without it being ridiculously obvious? It's not like he was a goalie letting some easy points in, as far as I know he has never scored on his own goal. I suppose all of that time in the penalty box must mean he was deliberately trying to hurt his team? doubtful.

And how is it that runs a weekly "Which NFL Teams to Bet On" column by their star Page 2 columnist but then stirs up so much outrage when actual athletes are found to be gambling? Double standard, what?

2006-02-09 15:32:06
12.   Bob Timmermann
For starters, there aren't any reports of game-fixing. The problem is bookmaking. Bookmaking is, to put it bluntly, ILLEGAL.

Betting on sports in New Jersey is legal only if the money paid out is equal to the money bet. So if das411 and I agree to bet $10 on the winner of the Super Bowl and he takes Pittsburgh and I take Seattle, I give das411 a sawbuck and it's all over. But if we ask grandcosmo to take care of the bet and he takes a cut while offering us odds, then grandcosmo has broken the law.

If you read some of the stuff at Off-Wing Opinion, you will see that the big problem here is that the New Jersey authorities believe Tocchet and the state trooper worked in concert with an organized crime family. That has to be a red flag.

2006-02-09 16:14:12
13.   das411
...Bob, did you just tell me I wanted the Steelers to win?

May the wrath of a thousand angry Philly fans smite thee!!

2006-02-09 16:16:24
14.   Bob Timmermann
Bet with your head, not with your heart.
2006-02-09 19:29:19
15.   grandcosmo
if it turns out that there are conected guys involved in his enterprise he will also be looking at organized criminal gambling, conspiracy to commit organized criminal gambling, RICO and racketerring charges.

The good thing for the Gretzky's and the other unnamed gamblers is that if the gambling ring started in 2005 then the people who have been named so far have a chance to file legitimate income tax returns.

2006-02-09 20:33:27
16.   Garveyfan6
I'm really astonished that so many are willing to give Gretzky a BIG PASS. We don't know if his wife made the bets FOR him, but it's beginning to seem that way. Yes, it seems that the bets weren't on hockey, but remember Bowie Kuhn banned both Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle for having even minority stakes in gambling casinos, saying even a small connection to gambling was enough to tarnish the game. This hockey fiasco appears to dwarf the Mays/Mantle incident. Rule 19 is there for a reason. It's too bad Gretzky is going to be the Rose of the NHL. They don't need this after the lockout.
2006-02-09 20:34:22
17.   deadteddy8
misterjohnny: Gambling by itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However, i think we can agree that breaking laws is almost always a bad thing. Driving is not a bad thing, but drinking a twelve pack and then driving is bad. If Tocchet and other people in positions of prominence broke the law, it's worthy of being a story. Part of the story is figuring out which people, if any, actually did break the law.
2006-02-10 10:06:05
18.   misterjohnny
To quote a great movie, "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here!"

Millions of people gamble illegally. Thousands of people qualified for the 2005 World Series of Poker by playing poker online, which the government says is illegal. Nobody was prosecuted. It sounds like it is not illegal to gamble in NJ, only illegal to run a bookmaking operation. Did she break the law? Does it matter? It shouldn't, because nobody is prosecuted for gambling. Even Pete Rose wasn't prosecuted for gambling. And it was not his gambling winnings that caused his tax problem, it was his income from the card shows.

The media harping on the Gretzy angle is National Enquirer journalism at its worst.

Then I hear on ESPN radio last night a couple of yahoos saying things like, "ooh, what if Janet bet on hockey. what if she was placing bets for Wayne". When taken to task by an emailer for accusing the Gretzky's of something with absolutely no evidence, the yahoos said "I never accused them of anything". No he didn't, he just threw a little gasoline on the speculation fire. All for ratings.

2006-02-10 10:47:56
19.   MikeLumHarris
18. Many erroneous statements in your post.

Many people have been prosecuted and jailed for bookmaking and organized criminal betting in New Jersey.

Sports betting is illegal in New Jersey. Unlike Las Vegas, there are no sports books in Atlantic City.

Pete Rose's tax evasion conviction included charges of not reporting income from memorabilia and card shows but it also included charges of not reporting income from winnings at racetracks and illegal gambling.

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