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Archive for Saturday, March 22, 1997

T TELL POLICE

March 22, 1997

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Local authorities are investigating alleged NCAA Tournament gambling at the Lawrence Public Schools' maintenance building.

Lawrence police are looking into an NCAA men's basketball tournament betting pool allegedly organized by employees of Lawrence Public Schools.

A disgruntled former employee reportedly called police Tuesday about an office pool at the school district's maintenance building, 146 Maine. Except for state-sponsored lotteries and sanctioned pari-mutuel racing, gambling violates state law.

Craig Fiegel, assistant superintendent of administrative services, acknowledged that a pool was being conducted by district maintenance employees, but stressed that the participants are far from alone in Lawrence.

"It was a pool like every other office in town had -- who isn't doing that?" Fiegel said. "It wasn't very much ... I kind of had to laugh."

Attached to police reports was a tournament bracket that had been copied from a newspaper. The bracket, apparently taken from the maintenance building, was blank except for a few scribbles on one side. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Susan Hadl said the fired employee "reported that the supervisor had been spearheading this alleged betting pool."

Fiegel said maintenance employees informed him this week that police were investigating the incident. Fiegel said the employee who reported the pool to police was denied a contract renewal in June 1996.

"I think two or three guys got (the pool) together," Fiegel said. "I don't believe the supervisor was the guy holding the money."

According to police reports, the former employee said entry fees ranged from $60 to $70. Workers told police the entry fee was $5 and potential winnings totaled $35.

State law classifies such gambling, no matter the amount wagered, as a crime. Participating in an NCAA Tournament betting pool is a misdemeanor, Assistant Dist. Atty. Jerry Little said. A business that permits the activity is also committing a misdemeanor.

The crime is bumped up to a felony when a business organizes a betting pool.

"It would depend on the facts of the case," Little said.

The investigation has been forwarded to the Douglas County district attorney's office for consideration of possible charges.

"The funny thing is, someone talked about doing one in this office," Fiegel said. "I said, 'Well, you know with the way things have been around here, that's all we would need.' I said, 'I would guess it was illegal' -- so we didn't do one here."

The school district has not taken an official stand against NCAA betting pools, Fiegel added.

"I have not tried to go out and find out how many schools or buildings are doing it ... and I probably don't want to know," Fiegel said. "I guess technically it's against the law. I suppose our official stance should be we won't do them."

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