My Uncle Sol, the bookie, can be in heaven if he had been round as of late.
Sports activities leagues are backing betting. Massive-time operators are speaking about placing a on line casino into the guts of Occasions Sq., Hudson Yards and Coney Island. You need to gamble outside the on line casino? You obtain an app in your cellphone, you may make a guess.
Sol was an old school bookie. He had a pencil and paper (which he tucked into the liner of his pants in case the police “pinched” him). He used coded letters when he wrote about cash: “A” equals $2, and so on. He even had an workplace (of types) in a quiet residential neighborhood in Brooklyn — he paid a pleasant widow $50 a month to make use of her basement, which had a fridge. And within the butter tray, wrapped in aluminum foil, he saved his bets.
However when off-track betting grew to become authorized in New York again within the Nineteen Seventies, I known as and requested him what impact it could have on his enterprise. He was virtually ecstatic.
“I’ll do higher than ever!” he claimed. “Authorized horse betting will lead individuals into different areas, like soccer and baseball.” Again then, you couldn’t guess legally on these sports activities in New York. Sol went on to clarify: “When bettors gamble, they lose in the long term. The town gained’t give credit score. However I’ll. The gamblers will lose. They’ll want credit score. They’ll have to return to me.”
Sol even had considered one of horse racing’s most well-known homeowners as a shopper. The guy, a gambler who as soon as wagered $100,000 on a Jack Dempsey combat, didn’t need the federal government — or any of the opposite bettors — to know what horses he was wagering on when he was at Aqueduct. So Sol accompanied him to the monitor and would e-book his bets.
Sol was the final of his type. He and his twin brother, Hymie, who ran the numbers in black neighborhoods, had been introduced up in East New York, Brooklyn — the same house I lived in. However Sol was not a tricky man. When he wasn’t working, you could possibly discover him watering his entrance garden. And through the Jewish vacation of Passover, Sol would preside over an enormous household gathering.
I as soon as requested him if bettors had been afraid of him. In spite of everything, within the films, bookies had been pictured as robust guys — who would break an arm or bop you over the top should you didn’t pay up. And considered one of Sol’s good buddies was a 400-pound enforcer from Homicide Inc. days named Tiny Benson.
However Sol claimed that neither he nor his bookmaking cohorts went round beating up deadbeats.
“If we did, guys can be afraid to guess with us, and we wouldn’t be doing any enterprise,” he defined. “That’s all film stuff. We’re good guys.”
I understand how determined bettors can get. For a narrative I used to be writing on off-track betting’s influence, I attended a Gamblers Nameless assembly. It was extra unsettling than I had anticipated. The group of seven males and three ladies talked about how they lived a lie due to their playing — how their very own spouses didn’t know what occurred to their cash, how the gamblers would make up tales of being mugged or dropping deposits on the way in which to the financial institution. They’d say something, do something.
However in guys like Uncle Sol, they’d a sympathetic listener, who gave them credit score and who (he stated) by no means threatened.
I recall driving house with Sol after a spending a day with him on his rounds — my pharmacist, the TV repairman, the candy-store proprietor, the butcher. He had lengthy since moved to Far Rockaway from East New York.
As we drove over the Cross Bay Bridge leaving Brooklyn, he went proper by means of the 15-cent toll with out stopping. In actual fact, the toll-taker even waved good-naturedly at him.
“How come you didn’t pay?” I requested him.
“I give him a bottle of Scotch for Christmas,” defined Sol, as he lit a cigarette.
Sol was the final of his type. Or was he? Will at this time’s authorized playing — in your cellphone or in individual — create a brand new sort of bookie? Who offers credit score? Who makes a dwelling off the dropping of others?
Gerald Eskenazi is a sportswriter. One in every of his 15 books, “A 12 months on Ice,” in regards to the New York Rangers’ 1969-70 season, has been fictionalized right into a film.