Oklahoma phone glitch snags payoff

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Phone glitch snags payoff By TIM HOOVER World Staff Writer 4/3/00MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World

Paula Gentry was going to go on a cruise.

That's how she planned to spend her winnings after picking the four winning horses on a superfecta wager in a simulcast race March 24 at Fair Meadows Racetrack.

She and a friend, Darrla James, had put down the $2 bet on the superfecta and then saw the numbers come across the tote board: "Payoff: $7,689.70."

The women began jumping and screaming as other patrons watched.

The euphoria lasted only a few hours, however. It vanished when Gentry was told she could not collect on her wager because Fair Meadows had not "merged with the national pool."


Gentry said track officials told her that a technical difficulty prevented Fair Meadows' telephone lines from connecting with the network of other tracks, meaning that wagers at Fair Meadows did not make it into the larger pot of bets on the race from around the country.

But the tote board said there was a payoff, Gentry said. How could Fair Meadows say there wasn't one?

She said she spent a week asking track officials for an explanation. "Nobody seems to know anything," she said.

Ron Shotts, Fair Meadows' director of racing, said that although the matter is under review, he believes the payoff reflected on the tote board was for another ticket held by a bettor at another track.

If Gentry's wager had made it into the national pool, there would have been two winners of the superfecta, and she would have had to split the $7,689.70, Shotts said.

Still, he conceded that track officials "don't know 100 percent of the story yet." He said he has spent the last week trying to get the tote board company in Montana and Delta Downs Racetrack in Vinton, La., to provide documentation to show that Gentry's wager was not part of the national pool.

He added, however: "If it did, in fact, go through, then hell, she'll get her money."

But Shotts also said regulations say that if there is a failure to merge with the national pool, the track does not have to pay anything on the bet other than the local pot. In this case, that would be $240.

Not exactly cruise fare.

Gordon Hare, the executive director of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, confirmed Shotts' interpretation of the rule.

"It's an unfortunate part of simulcasting," Hare said, adding that such difficulties occur regularly around the country.

He said the racing commission did not keep statistics on how often they have occurred in Oklahoma.

Shotts said similar things have occurred "two, three or four times in Tulsa since we've been open" for simulcasting.

Gentry, a massage therapist, said she and James, a sales representative for a uniform company, feel they were brushed off. "When we asked about it, they treated us like we were a couple of dumb blondes."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), April 03, 2000

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