Grand Rapids Racing Abruptly Ends: Threatened Action by Authorities Against Officials Cause Meeting to be Declared Off, Daily Racing Form, 1917-07-12


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I GRAND RAPIDS RACING ABRUPTLY ENDS Threatened Action by Authorities Against Officials Cause Meeting to Be Declared Off. ""Grand Rapids, Mich., July 11. Racing at Com-stock Park came to an abrupt termination when a notice was posted shortly after noon- "that for the present there would be no racing." The suspension was due to a complaint of S. E. Dodson, who gave informations to the prosecuting attorney of alleged law violations at the track and, had racing with the mutuel style of betting been in use tills afternoon, it would have entailed the arrest of seven persons, whom the sheriff had gcen given warrants to apprehend. The serving of the warrants was held in abeyance, on agreement that betting at the track would be discontinued. Without the bettting feature, the racing would have been a total fizzle and the announcement to call the meeting off followed. The first serious threat to put a stop to the racing at Comstock Park developed yesterday, but the promoters and the West Michigan State Fair Association people, were sanguine that the matter would be adjusted in a satisfactory fashion over night. But apparently they could make no headway. There is still a movement to adjust the matter without court proceedings, but this seems a remote contingency. . The whole muddle is charged to S. E. Dodson, a prominent figure in harness affairs. His action does not apparently sit well with the harness horsemen, judging by expressions heard about town. Commenting on his action, Attorney H. A. Ellis, of the Fair Association, said: "Dr. Dodson lost ,500 on the harness races here and when the running races were announced, he made an offer to the Fair Association that he would not interfere with the betting during the running races, if he was given ,500 to help meet his race promotion losses. The Fair Association refused this offer. Later he said that if the Fair Association would lease, him its track for five years at ,400 a year he would not interfere with the running meetig. We asked him to submit his proposition in writing. At noon lie went to the prosecutor and had seven warrants issued. The warrants were issued at Dodsons request, but Will not be served. The prosecutor agreed that if the betting is discontinued at the races no warrants will be served. We made this offer to the prosecutor: "To furnish him with the complete facts in connection with the race meeting, how the bets were placed and the amounts of the bets, so that a test case could be made against Stephen J. McDonald of the Fair Association alone. This the prosecutor refused." Judge Murphy made a statement this afternoon, of which the following is a part: Refuse Offer to Mako Test Case. "The horsemen and myself agreed that the best tiling to do was to declare the meeting off. In making test cases, I have found that it is better to make your own instead of going into court with the other fellows warrants. We offered the prosecutor a test case, that either Mr. McDonald or myself would mako and offered to go into court on an agreed statement of facts, hut lie refused. The West Michigan State Fair Association will take up at once with the harness men- of the state the question of a test and we will reach the Supreme Court as speedily as possible. " We may have been done a favor by Dr. Dodson in the long run, because if we are to build Grand Rapids into a big racing center we must have a clear construction of the law to do it. If the prosecutors construction of the law is correct no harness races can be successfully brought off in Michigan, even if there is no betting on them. We understand that he wis to have charged us with keeping a common gaming house under chapter 150, page 1848, of the revised statutes. The Supreme Court of the state has held in the Weithoft case that racing is a game and to use its language. "Let a stake be laid upon the chances of the game and we have gaining. In harness races the purses are made up iargely by subscriptions usually I of five per cent, to enter and five per cent, from I money winners. Under the gaming act a person is guilty of misdemeanor if he operates any game for gain, hire or reward. If racing is promoted and the associations take revenue from those subscribing to the stakes it is operating a game for gain or reward even, if no betting is allowed to be operated. In the running races the entrance was free and the percentage was deducted from the public for the race fund. We hold that legally there is no difference. But we contend and believe when we reacli the Supreme Court our contention would be upheld, that we are exempted from penalty under the gaming act by section one, page 3402, of the revised statutes, which reads as follows: "All running, I trotting or pacing of horses or any other animals, for any bet, stakes in money, goods or other valuable thing, excepting such as are by special laws , for that purpose be allowed, shall be deemed 1 racing within the meaning of this chapter and are hereby declared to be common and public nuisances Continued on second page. GRAND RAPIDS RACING ABRUPTLY ENDS. Continued, from first page. and misdemeanors and all parties concerned therein, either as authors, bettors, stakcrs, stake-holders, judges to- determine the speed of animals, riders, contrivers and abettors thereof, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, etc." Section 4.. of ,the same chapter, is particularly significant; it reads: "The owner in whole or in part of any animal that shall be used, or employed by his permission or privity, in racing contrary to law, Shall forfeit the value of the animal, so used or employed and every person who shall be concerned in laying a bet or wager upon the event of any, illegal, race, or in contributing to the stakes to be. awarded, shall forfeit the amount of the bet or wager so made, or the sum or thing contributed." Legal Racing Carries Right to Bet. It is perfectly plain from the above that the legislators meant to differentiate between legal and illegal racing and that what was classed as legal raciiig "carried with it the right to bet as an incident to that racing and that the betting was no more an offense than the Judging, riding, etc., etc. All this was laid before the prosecutor. He admitted that racing was genmine to the purposes of thJ West Michigan Fair Association. That it had a right to conduct such, races and that the right to bet was a debatable one, but he refused to debate it with us in court. The supreme court has passed on the question once p.nly and that in a civil suit. Detroit Driving Cluh -vs. Fitzgerald, 109, Michigan, G75. Although the Detroit Driving Club conducted both running and harness races, and it was common knowledge that pools were sold on the races conducted there and books made, the question was raised that the club was conducting a common gaming house. The court brushed all the contentions aside and declared for the club. - "The act relating to the common gamjng is a pool room act pure and simple. Both it and the racing law were passed at the session of 18-16 and are companion bills. It is not likely that the legislature meant to pass a measure so conflicting at the same session, unless it intended to exclude, legal racing from the penalties of the gaining , net.- . Before we uro, through, we shall find out what it meant; "We have kept our word as far ns possible to the.jieoble of Grand Rapids. We did not ask for anything. We promised to conduct a clean, high-class .meeting and we have kept our word. The sheriff and prosecutor told us that not a single complaint had come into their offices, except Dr. Dodsons. As for the latter, I will say that as a horseman, he knows how hard it is- for some of his fellow -ijportsmpn to get along. To have allowed themto hip here at big expense and then distress them by cutting off their racing in the middle, may be his- code of sporting ethics, but it will not get many followers with red blood in their veins." The owners here have already begun arrangements for departure. Most of them will ship to Detroit, where racing begins at Windsor next Saturday. Disquieting word also came to the horsemen here today that the Thoroughbred Horse Association had put .a. ban on the Thorncliffe meeting in accordance witU :tbeir expressed policy of last year to withhold support from - tracks not already built in the Dominion. The Thorncliffe course has been constructed since the horsemens agreement.

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