LADY LUCK AND THE LAW
Gambling in the U.S. extends from the cellars of the underworld to the penthouses of the wealthy, touching on its way the tenement, the middle-class home, the police precinct, legislative halls and political clubs. It is operated by syndicates whose personnel includes the same types that became millionaires when Americans thought they could legislate alcohol out of the appetite.
In an enlightening special report in The Nation, Milton R. Wessel, head of the short-lived U.S. Attorney General's Special Group on Organized Crime, "conservatively" estimates that the American public now spends $47 billion a year on illegal gambling alone—"a figure bigger than the national defense budget." Organized crime takes out of this enormous handle a gross profit of $9 billion and pays police and politicians $4.5 billion for protection. All judicial authorities agree that this revenue not only finances good living for bad men but also provides the capital for a variety of crimes.
Although the policy game is a major source of illegal gambling profit, betting on sports is, perhaps, the largest in revenue and public interest. Estes Kefauver's Senate subcommittee will be concerned with certain phases of sports gambling when it reconvenes in December. We hope this committee and other legislative inquiries will at least turn a bright light on criminal control of gambling and its intrusions in sport. Light will help, but more is needed. Wessel proposed an Office on Syndicated Crime within the Department of Justice. He was ignored. He now suggests that the President appoint a U.S. Attorney-at-Large for a continuing war on syndicated crime.
We agree with Wessel that laws should be enforced, but we also say it is the responsibility of legislators to make sensible and enforceable laws. A good many public officials "drink wet and vote dry" on gambling, just as their predecessors quite literally did in the dark days of Prohibition. They are, for the most part, fearful of a minority that holds any form of gambling to be evil. We recognize, but do not endorse, that point of view. We do not see how any man who is accustomed to taking the calculated risks inherent in a free society—and not necessarily with his money—can totally subscribe to it.
As long as gambling is outlawed it will remain in the control of criminals. Parallel with the enforcement of laws against gambling excesses and vicious types of exploitation of public naiveté we believe that some legal, honest and restrained gambling not only is possible but desirable.
Jamin, the champion French trotter who loved artichokes, earned a warm place in sportsmen's affections last year when he won the first International Trot in New York. Back in Europe in the spring and summer of this year Jamin suffered defeats and went lame. Nevertheless, he was brought here again this fall to compete in two "internationals." His dismal performances in the October 11 race and in the one last week at Yonkers Raceway confirmed expert opinion that the horse is far below his form. His very presence at Yonkers Raceway was enough to attract thousands of dollars—and thousands of enthusiastic fans who were not told that the champ was in no shape to win.
Mme. Olry-Roederer, of the French champagne family, is reported to be considering a deal for Jamin with an American syndicate; it may have been calculated that the horse's "exposure," as the publicity men call it, would help the deal. In view of Jamin's poor display, this may turn out to have been a major miscalculation.
But what concerns us is that a famous horse has been made to compete in widely publicized races when he was plainly unfit to do so. This is unfair to spectators and bettors. It demeans the horse and adds nothing to the stature of those who manage him or of harness racing.