Sport: Trouble at the Track

Italy's race tracks were deserted and shut down. Horses stood idle in their stalls, horseplayers were desolate and bookmakers were no busier than drugstore cowboys. Cause of the crisis: a misplaced decimal point.

Last fall the Italian government looked around for new funds to plug a deficit in its Soccorso Invernale (Winter Help for the Needy). Already taxed were theaters, movies, authors' copyrights, railroad tickets, streetcar fares, ski lifts and admission tickets to gambling casinos and race tracks. The next step, the government decided, was to tax track bets as well. Last year Italian horseplayers bet 30 billion lire ($48,000,000), and 1%...

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