Jail time for bet shop founder

Jul 19, 2005 4:46 AM

Susan Bala, who left North Dakota public service in the 1990s to develop and operate the most successful "rebate betting shop" in the U.S., is going to jail.

The founder and owner of Racing Services Inc., a company that offered simulcast and wagering services to horse players, including some of the country’s most sophisticated gamblers, was convicted of 12 counts including conducting an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to conduct an illegal gambling business, illegal wire transfer, and nine counts of money laundering.

Described by prosecutors as running "the largest illegal gambling operation in state history," Bala was sentenced to a 27-month prison term to be followed by two years of probation. An associate turned state’s evidence and testified against Bala, Reportedly she was offered a plea deal before the trial began but refused.

Racing Services was the first company to be licensed in North Dakota to simulcast racing signals from out-of-state tracks and provide a betting hub for the company’s customers. However, prosecutors charged that at some point, Bala transferred the wagering activity to an unlicensed facility and kept the proceeds.

In February, jurors in the Bala case ordered that Racing Services forfeit about $99 million, the amount authorities said was wagered at the unlicensed site. Bala was ordered to pay $19.7 million of that amount.

Bala never admitted responsibility and insisted others in her organization were responsible for the activity. "In my heart," she told the court, "I would never do anything illegal. I had no reason to jeopardize my business."

Following the closing of Racing Services, a number of high-end horse players, who wagered with the service because they received a rebate of as much as 10% of their total wagers, were forced to find other outlets. Adding to their problem was the fact that another major rebate outfit, a greyhound track in New Hampshire, was forced to close when some of the principals were indicted in New York with some gamblers who were charged with money laundering.