Racetrack suspected of illegal betting

? An investigation is being conducted into allegations of illegal betting at The Woodlands racetrack, authorities said Friday.

James Gartland, a spokesman for The Woodlands, a horse and dog track in Kansas City, Kan., said the allegations are without merit.

“Frankly, it’s just a bunch of bull,” Gartland said.

But some state lawmakers said the allegations are troubling, especially because there is expected to be a push during the legislative session to expand gambling in Kansas to include slot machines at pari-mutuel racetracks.

“This is quite serious,” said Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe.

Stephen Martino, executive director of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, said there is an administrative complaint “regarding allegations of a conspiracy to engage in illegal gambling.”

Martino declined to comment further on the nature of the allegations, but Gartland said the investigation is related to a dispute that involves himself.

Earlier this year, the Racing and Gaming Commission refused to approve Gartland’s periodic background check, which essentially removed Gartland as general manager of the track. He continues to work there, he said, in “nonracing operations.”

Last year, Gartland paid a $300 fine after pleading no contest to having a gambler place wagers equaling $300 to $400 to help cover shortfalls in a Tri-Superfecta wagering pool. But the track would cover the wagers from funds designated for “customer relations,” the state complaint stated.

In its pleadings, the state alleged that the gambler who received betting tickets through the “free wagers” actually won once, which reduced the winnings of other bettors.

But Gartland said he was simply trying to get the Tri-Superfecta up to the required $5,000 pool.

He denied anyone made or lost money on the deal.

“Nobody made any money; nobody got cheated,” he said.

Brownlee said Gartland should be out of a job.

She said the alleged problems at The Woodlands raise concerns about whether the Racing and Gaming Commission could regulate expanded gambling.

“We really need to watch this,” she said.

Gartland is fighting the Racing and Gaming Commission.

He has filed a lawsuit seeking a review of the commission’s action that removed his ability to hold the general manager position.

A hearing on that issue is scheduled in a Wyandotte County court next month.

But, he said, his issues with the Racing and Gaming Commission should have no effect on any debate on whether to expand gambling in Kansas.

The Woodlands and Wichita Greyhound Park have long lobbied the Legislature for slot machines, saying that their tracks are barely surviving economically because of competition from American Indian casinos and casinos in Missouri and Oklahoma.