Vegas bookie says bets on hockey are possible

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

The initial charges against Rick Tocchet and others involved in an elaborate gambling ring suggest that hockey wasn't involved.

But don't bet against it.

According to one legal bookmaker in Las Vegas, that may be a naive assumption given the scope of the stunning investigation.

"It doesn't matter what sport they are from, all these guys, whenever they get caught, all they say they did was bet on other sports," said Rich Dressler, the sports and race book manager at the Imperial Palace Casino on the Vegas strip. "What else are they going to do?

"It's like a death-row inmate finding God. I might have bought it before you were convicted."

Dressler said that should Tocchet be found guilty of charges that he was involved in financing a New Jersey-based gambling ring, both hockey and the gaming industry in general will take it on the chin.

In announcing the results of their investigation, dubbed Operation Slap Shot, New Jersey authorities said the group confined most of its betting action to football and basketball.

The same officials were careful, however, not to rule out hockey. With several yet-to-be named NHLers said to be involved, the investigation will take a different tone if there is any indication bets on hockey were booked.

Could those players have been involved in providing inside information or, worse, altering the outcome of games? Merely raising those questions could be devastating for the sport.

"If it's all true, it's pretty ugly," Dressler said. "It's a black eye for a league that sure doesn't need it right now.

"And it will screw us (Vegas sports books). Every time something like this happens, you get the moral preachers coming out of the woodwork preaching the evils of gambling."

The NHL doesn't forbid players from betting on other sports, but the collective bargaining agreement makes it clear that gambling on any NHL game is prohibited.

Dressler said it wouldn't be a surprise if numerous players, or even an NHL owner, were involved.

"They are obviously not alone," Dressler said of Tocchet and the yet to be named players. "I have no doubt a lot of players have money on games all the time."


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