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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

You Can Bet That Hahn Wants the Lakers to Win

May 07, 2003|T.J. Simers

You know how you sometimes kick yourself later for not helping someone when you could? Well, I've thought about that a lot the last few days with this story about William Bennett, the former education secretary, reportedly losing more than $8 million in the last decade while gambling.

Five years ago the wife and I were on a Caribbean cruise, because how many times can you go to Hometown Buffet to celebrate an anniversary before you notice they never change the food? In our case it was 25 years -- wedded bliss, you know -- and I remember running into Bennett on the ship because it seemed like we had a lot of time to kill.

The big guy was parked directly in front of a $1 slot machine, and everyone knows the slot machines on a ship don't pay off very well -- everyone, apparently, but the former education secretary.

I remember telling the wife I should tell that to Bennett, and she agreed, saying she wanted a chance to play that machine, so I left him alone.


MY FAULT, I guess, the guy went on to lose more than $8 million, and that's why I reacted so quickly when I saw the story move across the newswire Tuesday that Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn was gambling again.

Hahn has wagered a case of wine with a value of $120 against a pair of boots put up by the San Antonio mayor that the Lakers will beat the Spurs.

Now you tell me -- does this guy have a problem? How many people do you know who bet on the Sparks? Hahn has. It's also known he has made previous wagers on the Lakers against the Sacramento Kings, and then again against the Nets.

I always thought gambling was illegal. That's why I called former district attorney Gil Garcetti for legal advice. I asked Garcetti if the mayor should be arrested or serve time for betting $120.

"First of all, he should have gone to Trader Joe's and gotten a better deal than that on wine; I'm surprised Jim didn't do that," Garcetti said. "But I believe the mayor has special forgiveness when it involves gambling and the Lakers, although I've got a new TV show coming out soon called the 'D.A.' and you've given me an idea for a script." I wonder if he'll have the mayor's case moved to Santa Monica.

"All in all," said Garcetti with a chuckle, "I believe in giving the mayor a little leeway, although I guess we do have to concern ourselves with the example that's being set for kids."

I believe that will be the problem for the mayor of San Antonio should he win and attempt to swallow his winnings all at once. And I would imagine if the Spurs win, the mayor will have a lot of company.


I CALLED Mayor Hahn, but got switched to the press room and was told the mayor had made "just a friendly wager." I said, "For $120? Isn't that still illegal?"

"We'll get back to you," I was told. Julie Wong, the mayor's spokeswoman, called later to say "the mayor is not worried about losing the bet," and to date "has never lost a bet," so he has never had to pay off -- like that lets him off the hook.

I'd like a look at his income tax return to see if he has reported winning nine dozen doughnuts from New York's mayor, tacos from Sacramento's mayor and fresh tomatoes from his winnings in New Jersey.

"He never got the tacos or tomatoes," Wong said. "They never paid off."

Great. Now I've got to check the files to see if any public officials in New Jersey or Sacramento suddenly showed up for work with a broken leg. That's the problem with gambling. Once it starts, there's no telling where it might lead.


IF SHAQUILLE O'Neal plays as hard as he did Monday night, I would think the Lakers would be in prime position to steal tonight's game in San Antonio, which is all they need to make it another six-game series. (I'd still like to get a few minutes out of Kareem Rush, and maybe some points off the bench).

I know this, the NBA chose the wrong player for MVP honors. Tim Duncan not only disappears at times, but his free-throw shooting is horrendous.

Kobe Bryant saved the Laker season, giving them the chance to be seeded fifth. He gets penalized by voters because he plays with Shaq. His best chance to get his due is securing NBA Finals' MVP honors.


PHIL JACKSON whining about the officials is very unbecoming. I'd expect that from someone who spends a lot of time in Sacramento.


I THINK I said it before anyone else in our neighborhood: When it comes time for the Ducks to score a huge goal, you watch, it'll be Sandis Ozolinsh who gets it.


RIGHT NOW, you can pay $950 for a ticket to watch Lennox Lewis take on Kirk Johnson in Staples Center and Vitali Klitschko go up against TBA. I think TBA has it right -- I wouldn't want anyone to know I was going to be there either.


ON THE Dodger Web site, this question is asked: Which Dodger will win the most games? Kevin Brown led in the voting with 41%, ahead of Hideo Nomo at 34% and Odalis Perez at 18%. I wonder if that brought a smile to Brown's face.


TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Rob Hamers:

"I don't read your stupid column anymore because (idiots) like you have no clue how to be entertaining or funny. Now I see you (ticked) off Mitch Kupchak of the Lakers and a few more (letter) writers. No one thinks you are witty, funny, entertaining or deserve a forum for your half wit.... you and your father are a lot alike -- both have been dead for quite some time."

It might be time to start a new Donkey contest.

T.J. Simers can be reached at

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