A History of Bad Bets

Written by City and State on . Posted in Politics.


By Andrew Hawkins

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature may be banking on legalized casinos to help buoy the state’s economy, but history suggests the industry attracts corruption and scandal just as much as jobs and development.

“NYPIRG does not have a position on casino gambling, but we feel that the history of corruption on this issue in New York and other states indicates that if this amendment passes, a strong oversight body should be empowered,” said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group, who helped compile this time line.

From Charles Evans Hughes’ failed attempt to outlaw horse racing to Donald Trump’s mea culpa, New York gambling—legal and illegal—has long driven a cat-and-mouse game between those who would make money from it and those who would regulate it.

1894–The Lexow Committee uncovered hundreds of examples of Tammany policeman collecting payments from underground businesses, including gambling houses.

1908–An attempt by Gov. Charles Evans Hughes to eliminate illegal betting on horse racing was repelled by opponents who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to lawmakers out of an Albany hotel room.

1935–New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia cracked down on corner-store slot machines, a major source of Mafia funding. LaGuardia did it with gusto, rounding up the so-called “one-armed bandits,” swinging a sledgehammer and dumping the busted machines into the river.

1953–After a union leader was found murdered at the raceway in Yonkers, an investigation revealed that stock holdings in New York racetracks were dominated by state legislators and party officials.

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