A few years ago the international gambling craze all centered around the activities of Constable Guido Cohen -- and what he would be doing on October 9.
Guido, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (see note, below), is the son of Jewish immigrants from Naples who moved to Toronto in the 1960's. They raised him to respect his religious heritage as well as his national origins and adopted nation. In fact, that is the reason that there is such widespread interest in just how Guido would be spending the day.
That year, by a strange set of circumstances, Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement), Columbus Day, and Canadian Thanksgiving all fell on the same date.
"I know Guido well," said Herman Fishbaum, his rabbi. "He will spend the day in Temple and will not have anything to eat or drink -- not even a glass of water. That is what our religion requires, and that is what he will do. In fact, I'm laying 7 to 4 odds on it."
"Columbus Day is meant to be celebrated by drinking vino, eating pasta, and dancing the tarantella into the late hours of the night," argued Massimo Borghese, president of the Sons of Napoli, Toronto Chapter. "Guido looks forward to it every year and he wouldn't think of missing our annual festa. I've already placed over $10,000 on it, and I'll increase the bet if I can manage to mortgage the Tower of Pisa."
"Constable Cohen is an all-Canadian man," said Sergeant Frank Preston, his immediate superior at the Mounties. "This means that he will have a big Thanksgiving Dinner and watch every football game he can squeeze into the day. The guys in the station have been on the phones all week laying bets at their bookies."
When Guido's story broke in the Toronto Star, it captured the imagination of the nation and started an avalanche of betting.
"God bless Guido Cohen," said Joe Running Horse, head of the Native Saskatchewan Casino and Sports Book. "He has done more to stimulate business than the Superbowl and national elections combined. "We're going to make enough on the vigorish to put Jacuzzis into all of our teepees."
The situation even attracted international attention, leading to an unexpected bonus for various online sportsbooks. The Royal Bet reported millions of Canadian dollars and British Pounds being wagered on Guido. Mona Lisa Sportsbook was barely been able to stand up under the crush of Italian Lire being bet. Israelis, too, were busy betting on Guido -- but when they discovered that King Solomon's Casino does not have a sports betting section were forced to turn to the neighboring Egyptian Casino and Sportsbook.
"It's great to have the additional business," said Egyptian Sportsbook president Achmed Taboori, "but what the heck are we going to do with all this Israeli money? It is very difficult to spend shekels in downtown Cairo."
Naturally, where such large amounts are involved, rumors of a possible "fix" start floating.
"We're watching things very closely," said Inspector Jacques Claude Rousseau of the Interpol's Casinos, Sports, and Guido Section. "We are working on a lead that the Italians are trying to put in a fix."
"You mean the Mafia?" I asked.
"No," he said. "The pasta chefs. They are planning on delivering a major tortellini and fettucini dinner to Guido's house on the afternoon of October 9. They have developed a new sauce which they think will constitute an offer he can not refuse."
"How about the Israelis?" I asked. "Are they planning anything?"
"Their Intelligence Service -- the Mossad -- thought of escorting Guido to Temple early in the morning and then blocking it off so that nobody could leave until Yom Kippur was over. They called it off when the Mounties got wind of the plan."
"Thank goodness for the Mounties," I said. "At least you know that they would never get involved in bet fixing."
"No?" mused Rousseau. "Then tell me why the Mounties have assigned Guido to special duties on October 9."
"Yes. He has been ordered to watch football games on television to doublecheck that the refs are making honest calls. He will be doing it at the Prime Minister's home and, at the same time, tasting the PM's turkey to make certain it isn't poisoned."
"If he gets that job, there is no way the Israelis or Italians will be able to win the bet," I said. "Why isn't Interpol doing something about it?"
"We are," said Rousseau. "We're getting every member of the force involved! We've been online ever since we learned about the Mounties order."
"Trying to convince them to change their minds?" I asked.
"No," said Rousseau, "hitting the sportsbooks' websites and betting on Canada."
Note: Being a Mounted Policeman is a very different thing than being a mounted police woman, although both have reputations for always getting their man.