Deadlands Noir: The Politics of Contrband
An Italian Lottery, also known as a “Numbers Game” or “Numbers Racket” is an illegal betting scheme, popularized first in New York City before spreading to the rest of North America. Originally run by New York’s “Five Families”, Italian Lotteries are now operated by a variety of organized crime entities, including those not of Italian decent.
Though specifics very from lottery to lottery, the basic premise of the numbers game revolves around picking three numbers that will appear from an unaffiliated source. For example, the original New York City version used the ones place of the daily total payout for win, place, and show at the Aqueduct Racetrack. So, if payouts for the day were:
Then the winning numbers would be “419”.
There are several Italian Lotteries operating in New Orleans at the moment. The Black Hand operate three, one based off of the daily payouts at Kentucky’s famed Churchhill Downs, another on the box scores of New Orleans Zephyrs baseball games, and another on daily highs in temperature, humidity, and air pressure. The Red Sect operate one in Treme based on shipping statistics from the Port of New Orleans. All four lotteries use the Times Picayune as their official source. The three Black Hand operated lotteries pay off at 600 to 1 and offer different minimum wagers, ranging from penny ante to two bits. The Red Hand lottery has a two cent buy in and pays off at 500 to 1.