Historical Highlights

The House Select Committee on Organized Crime

May 24, 1972
The House Select Committee on Organized Crime Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Following an eight-year hiatus from politics after service in the U.S. Senate, Claude Pepper of Florida returned to Congress as a Representative. He served 14-terms in the House of Representatives.
On this date, the House Select Committee on Crime held hearings to investigate the involvement of organized crime in American sports. Congressman Claude Pepper of Florida—chairman of the 11-Member House select committee—oversaw the investigation which spanned several months during the 92nd Congress (1971–1973). The American people “have a right" to watch sports conducted on an even playing field, Pepper remarked earlier in the month. “But," as the Washington Post noted, "the sheer cash flow involved in illegal betting on those contests gives racketeers huge profits with which they may fix results to affect betting.” The series of highly publicized hearings focused on mafia ties to horse racing and included some celebrity witnesses such as singer Sammy Davis, Jr., and reputed mobster, Joseph “the Baron” Barboza. Barboza’s testimony elicited much attention from the press, especially for his assertion that entertainer Frank Sinatra was linked to the mafia. Sinatra, who later spoke before the committee, chastised Members for not refuting the allegations made against him. Held in the Cannon Caucus Room, many of the hearings were televised due to the great public interest. The committee report to the 93rd Congress (1973–1975), made public in June 1973, recommended federal sanctions for tampering with the outcome of horse races. “Fixed races have been discovered at both thoroughbred, or flat, tracks and harness raceways,” the report affirmed. “What has come to public attention, we fear, are only the most flagrant examples of a significant problem which the industry chooses not to face due to its misguided desire to protect the image of the sport.”

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