The Baleful Influence of Gambling

A graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia Law School, Robert F. Kennedy managed his brother's campaigns first for the Senate and then for the Presidency. He won nationwide respect for his firm, intelligent behavior as chief counsel to the. Senate committee which investigated improper activities of racketeers and gamblers, afield of inquiry that he pursues with undiminished force as Attorney General.
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But, invariably, when federal agents try to raid bookmakers and policy operators, the first efforts of the law violators are aimed at destroying all of their books and records. Only a short while ago raiders in Detroit used a ladder to go through a second-story window in a raid in which they found people in the house burning information sheets in a potbellied stove which had a padlock on it. IRS agents in Atlanta recently raided a policy operator who also operates a supermarket. They found records of baseball bets in his cash register. While agents were examining these slips, the operator of the establishment suddenly touched his cigarette to the betting slips, and they exploded in a ball of fire. This bolt-flash paper is now widely used by racketeers so that they can do away with their records in a matter of seconds. A New Orleans bookie who was recently raided raced into his bathroom and dumped his papers into a toilet. Agents were right on his heels and salvaged the soaking documents, which indicated $6500 in bets had been placed with this operator during part of the day.

In January, Internal Revenue agents raided a large-scale bookmaking operation in Florida. The raid was unique because some of the Revenue agents brought fire extinguishers and were able to douse a fire set to flash paper by operators in an attempt to destroy records. However, I was more interested in the agents' report that the bookmaking operation appeared to handle about $250,000 in bets daily.

These cases demonstrate that fantastic sums of money are being handed over to the gamblers by millions of Americans who, like the housewife, the factory worker, and the business executive, think they are simply taking a chance. They are not taking a fair chance The odds are loaded against them.

Their dimes, quarters, and dollars do not stay in the pockets of the big-time gamblers and racketeers. Just as legitimate businessmen invest their profits in other businesses, so do the capitalists of crime use their gambling profits to invest in other criminal businesses. High on the list is narcotics.

The horrors of the narcotics traffic need no elaboration. The contribution of gambling to narcotics smuggling, however, deserves wide attention. The profits from narcotics smuggling can be enormous, but it takes large amounts of money to finance a narcotics ring, and almost invariably gambling revenues provide the initial investment. Indeed, the use of such revenues to finance narcotics operations is so common as to be virtually inevitable.

During the 1920s and 1930s, such kingpin gamblers as Arnold Rothstein and Waxey Gordon invested huge amounts in the narcotics-smuggling business. An enormous international narcotics conspiracy in the 1950s was financed with the gambling profits and underworld credit of Harry Stromberg. He and seventeen others were convicted for their participation in this five-year heroin-importing operation.

The activities of Vito Genovese, a top racketeer, closely document the kinship between gambling profits. and narcotics traffic. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics has described Genovese as having been the motivating force behind an international heroinrsxiuggIing combine, and at the same time the controlling force behind gambling interests in several large cities. At one point, Genovese and several associates attempted to take over the numbers racket in the Spanish­speaking areas of East Bronx, New York. Their- plan was to use the gambling profits from the numbers operation to finance heroin shipments into this country. The gang was arrested before it could carry out the entire plan. Genovese is serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for àrcotics conspiracy, and his associates also received substantial sentences.

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