The Irish Hospitals Sweepstakes is organized by a private company, Hospitals Trust Ltd., and has been held three times a year since 1930 (the year when the government of the Republic of Eire passed an act legalizing a lottery for the benefit of Irish hospitals). The Sweep is drawn three times in connection with three types horse races England’s Grand National and Cambridge shire, and since 1962 the Irish Sweeps Derby. (Before 1962 the third race was the English Derby.) The biggest Irish Sweep so far recorded was the 91st for the Grand National in 1957- when 6455 prizewinners were paid the equivalent of nearly $ 7,500,000,and the first prize was $ 1,050,000.
On each ticket is the following declaration: “The amount of money received from sale of tickets under the Public Hospital Act of 1933 of 1940 will be distributed as follows: Twenty-five per cent will be paid to the hospitals. The balance after deduction there out of the expenses as sanctioned by the Minister for Justice under the scheme for the Sweepstakes will be distributed in prizes. The amount provisionally certified by the auditors on the day preceding the draw to be available for prizes, if exceeding $ 120,000 [about $ 350,000], will be divided into as many prize units of $ 120,000 as the sum permits. The remainder …will be distributed into 50 cash prizes of equal amount.”
The drawing of the lottery at the Hospitals Trust headquarters in Dublin is carried out under close supervision by the government and police. Several days before the relevant race is due to be run, all the ticket counterfoils (which are until this time held in sealed safe deposits under armed guard) are put in wind machines that blow them around continually for three days. Thus there can be no question of inadequate shuffling. Then, on the day of the draw (which takes place in public), all the counterfoils are put in a long drum with eight rows of six holes in its circumference and the drum is revolved slowly to mix the counterfoils thoroughly.
A team of pretty nurses is lined up besides the holes. As each nurse draws a lucky number counterfoil from the drum, a second simultaneously draws a slip from a smaller glass drum. On these last slips are written the names of the horses. Both the number of the counterfoil and the name of the horse are announced, and the counterfoil and slip are then scrutinized by the director of the draw and photostated. The first, second, and third prizewinners are naturally decided by the horses; but everyone who draws a horse gets a prize whether the horse is placed (i.e., finishes among the winners) or not, and there are in additions some 200 consolation prizes.
Tickets sales, as I have said, are illegal practically everywhere. (Many countries with state lotteries –among them Brazil, Cambodia, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, Italy, Israel, and Peru – forbid all other lotteries, except small ones for good causes, to avoid competition.) But nevertheless a surprising number of tickets make their way past a great many national boundaries and are promptly sold in spite of the law. In America, for instance, occasional raids on the mails and the impounding of tickets and remittances (even, sometimes, of prize money) have been ineffective in stiffing the sale of tickets. Even when, in 1935, U.S. post-office officials seized many thousands of letters addressed to the Dublin office of the Sweep’s headquarters and returned them to the senders with a terse warning about using the mails for illegal purposes, there was no stopping the Sweep. Consignments of tickets were smuggled into America and counterfoils and money were smuggled out again. This often involved hiding the packages in innocent goods: The customs authorities who inspected the holds of the liner America in 1948 were amazed to find about 2,000,000 counterfoils concealed in bales of flax being exported for processing into Irish linen.
Until recently, no legal lottery existed in the U.S.A. except in the dependency of Puerto Rico. But since 1957 eleven states have permitted bingo and small raffles, and in April 1963 the governor of New Hampshire authorized a state lottery that he hopes will raise $ 4,000,000 a year for state education. But this is not to say that lotteries don’t flourish illegally elsewhere in America, and not only in the form of importations like the Irish Sweepstakes. There is a native American lottery gamble that turns over about $ 5,000,000,000 a year the numbers game (which is also known as the numbers racket, the policy game, bolita, mutual numbers, and Negro numbers).
Players of the numbers game gamble by attempting to predict some apparently unpredictable number. This used to be the final three digits of the daily balance figures of a city’s stock exchange; but now it is nearly always one of the payoff prices at a specific race track. The numbers game had its beginnings in Harlem in the early 1900s. At the time it was a small-scale gambling game that usually involved a simple prediction of the numbers in the final totals of the Cincinnati clearing house. Tickets could be bought for as little as 10 cents and the prize for an all-correct forecast was never more than $ 300. but this harmless picture was soon to change. When Prohibition was repealed in 1932, the big-time racketeers who had made fortunes bootlegging liquor suddenly had their incomes cut off. So they looked around for a new field of action; and their attention turned to Harlem and the numbers game. Within a very short time the game was turned from a poor man’s gamble into a nation-wide racket of immense magnitude. And the man mainly responsible for this transformation was a top New York gangster named Dutch Schultz.
At the head of a gang of toughs and killers, Schultz had become one of richest “beer barons” of the Prohibition years. Now he sensed a new gold mine. He and his gunmen invaded Harlem, took over the numbers game, and expanded its organization throughout the city. Numbers tickets were soon on sale almost everywhere; and Schultz’s men were always on hand to see that people bought. By 1933 a would-be player could find about a dozen different numbers-game depots operating on practically every street in Harlem, and the game was quickly spreading to other districts and cities.
Schultz awarded prizes for the lottery at his own discretion. Very often winners weren’t paid at all, and dissatisfied customers were left to argue with his henchmen. If this approach caused business to begin to fall off in certain districts, Schultz would award some prizes. (It was at this period that the game became known as “the numbers racket.”) But obviously an explosive situation of this kind couldn’t last for ever, and Schultz’s reign ended in typical gangster fashion when an unknown gunman shot him down in October 1935.
But the numbers game continued to flourish. Other big gang leaders took over control and there was considerable gang warfare that only settled down when each city was divided into sections, each gag controlling a particular section. Today the racketeers still have a large number of local policemen and politicians in some of the smaller cities on their payroll, which gives them a certain amount of freedom to operate.
Naturally an elaborate and well co-ordinated organization is needed to run an underground activity on the scale of the numbers game. Although “controllers” have their own favorite methods of operating, the pattern is generally this: Books of numbered tickets are distributed to agents by an intermediary known as ‘runner’; a second collects the money from the agent; a third collects the receipts or “money slips.” Each runner works for a different controller, and each controller operates from a different office or “bank.” The operation is carried out in three separate stages in order to confuse the police, who cannot make a conviction unless they obtain both the money and the slips: Money alone is not considered proof enough. From time to time, of course, the operators slip up. In July 1960, for example, the New Jersey police raided a private home and discovered $ 281, 283 in cash, together with number slips, tapes, and adding machines-all the evidence they needed.
In spite of the law, then, America seems just as lottery-conscious as any other country. And, in the U.S.A. as elsewhere, the lottery principle is sometimes put to some strange uses. The American author Roul Tunley, in his book kids, Crime, and Chaos, writes: “In one of Philadelphia’s better suburbs, group of well-to-do youngsters developed an ingenious twist: a car-stealing lottery. The game was played as follows: Each day the kids in the group stole a certain number of automobiles, after each youngster had kicked in a certain amount of money for the ‘privilege” of doing so… When the police announced over the radio the license numbers of the stolen cars, the kid who had stolen the car that was mentioned first took the day’s pool.”
Bingo is another kind of lottery gamble that is widely popular in America. It is legal in 1 American states (New York, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, and Alaska) but it presumably is played in all states; and it attracts nearly $ 2,000,000,000 each year. In Britain too, bingo is big business. When the British government passed laws in 1956 and 1960 legalizing its own lottery (Premium Bonds) it had to legalize lotteries in general to some extent –i.e. those held for “charitable, sporting, and cultural purposes.” This easing of restrictions opened the way to an annual British expenditure on bingo of $ 70,000,000. France does not permit Italian bingo in any form; elsewhere in Europe it is of minor importance.
“Dutch” Schultz, gangster king of the illegal numbers racket in Harlem (New York) in the 1930s and one of the richest racketeers in American gambling history. Schultz only occasionally paid out prizes to “winners gaming news ” of the numbers game, so for a time made immense profits. At the height of the city-wide racket he was said to be worth $ 7,000,000. (Eventually a Federal indictment for tax evasion was served against him, but he was murdered before he could be tried.)