Gambling, bookies and bolita

Legal and illegal gambling has long been a part of South Florida. Henry Flagler enticed high rollers to Miami by building a house of chance with every hotel. Miami was the winter home for some of the country’s most powerful racketeers. In the in the 1920s, the city of Hialeah housed Hialeah Park , an illegal but bustling horse track. By the 1930s, organized crime bosses Al Capone and Meyer Lansky had established local hangouts. And bolita, the illegal numbers game that came from Cuba and stayed, reached from Tampa to Key West. It helped propel former Miami Mayor Robert King High into the race for governor. When news was slow, High often grabbed publicity by being photographed leading raids on bolita counting houses. Former Dade State Attorney Richard Gerstein also gained publicity battling operators.

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