CHAPTER LXXI. LOTTERIES.

The New York correspondent of a provincial journal, recently published the following excellent sketch of the lottery business as practiced in this city.

Few persons realize to what an extent American lotteries are patronized in this city, and in a great many other cities of the country. A lottery business has been built up within a few years, secret and silent from general public inspection, which draws thousands of dollars yearly from the pockets of credulous fools, into the coffers of the designing men who manage these traps for the fortune-seekers. New York is the general headquarters for these Southern lotteries, though they are not drawn here; and in this sketch we will take a look at them.

The regular authorized American lotteries are the 'Kentucky' and 'Missouri.' There are several other branches of these concerns - two or three off-shoots growing out of a feud between the managers of the old Kentucky lottery, last winter, but as the side-establishments are not recognized as legitimate, either by patrons or the lottery board, I will pass them by in silence.

The two lotteries above named are drawn daily at noon and night. The 'Kentucky' is drawn at Covington and the 'Missouri' at Lexington. The drawings are made in public. Immediately after the numbers are taken from the wheel, the telegraph sends them over the country to the various lottery offices, those for the East coming to the general headquarters in this city, where they are forwarded to every lottery dealer in New England and the Middle States.

The lottery schemes are what is known as the ternary combination of seventy-eight numbers, being one to seventy eight, inclusive; or, in other words, 'three number' schemes. The numbers vary with the day. To-day seventy-eight numbers may be placed in the wheel and fourteen of them drawn out. Any ticket having on it three of the drawn numbers takes a prize, ranging from fifty thousand dollars to three hundred dollars, as the scheme may indicate for the day. Tickets with two of the drawn numbers on them pay an advance of about a hundred per cent. of their cost. Tickets with only one of the drawn numbers on them get back first cost. On another day only seventy-five numbers will be put in the wheel, and only twelve or thirteen drawn out. And so it goes.

The owners or managers of these concerns are prominent sporting men and gamblers of New York and elsewhere. Considerable capital is invested. It is said that it takes nearly two million dollars to work this business, and that the profits average five hundred thousand dollars or more a year. The ticket sellers get a commission of twelve per cent. on all sales. The tickets are issued to them in lots, one set of combinations going to one section of the country this week, another next; and all tickets unsold up to the hour for the drawing at Covington, are sent back to headquarters. In this way many prizes are drawn by tickets which remain unsold in dealers' hands after they have reported to the agents; and the lottery makes it clear.

Together with the sale of tickets is carried on an extensive game of gambling known as 'policy.' To 'policy' is to bet on certain numbers coming out in the drawing, for either morning or evening. Thus, if I believe 4, 11, 44 will be drawn, I stake a dollar at the lottery office, or any sum I see fit, up to five hundred dollars, and if all three of the numbers make their appearance on the drawing, the liberal managers will give me two hundred dollars for my one. You can take any three numbers of the seventy eight and policy them. The three numbers taken are called a 'gig;' two numbers a 'saddle;' four numbers a 'horse' - either of which pays its own rate, which is from two to six hundred dollars for one; a 'saddle,' however, only giving a small advance on your stake.

Now, perhaps you will say that is simple enough, and a fine chance to make money. It must be possible to strike three numbers often. Try it. The lottery, by its large advance on the amount you stake, tells a different story. A man might play three numbers every day for a year, and not have the satisfaction of seeing all three come out at one time on the drawing. Two will come out with a number just ahead or below the third; and you will pay more money and try again. Why there are men who are veterans at policy-playing, using all their spare funds, going without everything which makes life pleasant, and yet it is rarely they hit the 'gig.'

In this city, where all kinds of gambling flourishes, from the Stock Exchange to a Fifth Avenue faro 'hell,' a 'sweat' board in Baxter street, or greasy marked cards in a cellar drinking den - these American lotteries are sold in no less than six hundred places over and across the town. They are known by the dignified name of 'Exchange.' Go where you will, their signs will meet your eye. On Broadway, down town, there are several large lottery offices, well known, frequented by merchants and well-to-do business men, where policy is played with high stakes, where hundreds of tickets are sold daily. There is one near John street, on Broadway. The front office is a money broker's counter; but passing through, you come into a long, well-furnished room, all parts of the day filled with policy players. Here they do a great business in lottery tickets. There are five clerks employed. Across the wall hangs a large slate, upon which the drawn numbers are chalked. A little sign over the ticket desk gives notice that 'plays will not be taken for over ten thousand dollars.' This is the great office of the city. The proprietor has an interest in the lotteries, besides making his commission as seller.

A good many stories are told of this 'Exchange.' A man came in one day and laid a dollar on the counter before the clerk, and said: 'Here, give me a ticket that will draw a prize! That dollar is all I have got; but I dreamed last night that I would draw something big!' The clerk laughed, and carelessly passed him a ticket taken at random from the bunch. It was numbered 16, 42, 51. Did it draw the prize, you ask? No, not that drawing. The man came in at night, read the list of drawn numbers, turned away without a word, and went out into the street. He had been gone but a moment before the report of a pistol rang out clear, sharp, alarming. The people in the policy office hurried to the door. The unfortunate man had shot himself dead! The next morning what should come rolling out of the lottery wheel but his numbers - 16, 42, 51 - a prize of twenty thousand dollars! Tricked by fortune, the man lay cold and stark at the Morgue.

Another story. A boy came into the office not long since. 'Father wants to policy two dollars on this gig,' he said, giving the three numbers to a clerk. That was for the noon drawing. About two o'clock the father came to inspect the list. He cast his eye down the big slate, and found his 'gig' there. He had won four hundred dollars! 'I have spent five thousand dollars on this accursed thing, and this is the first money that has come back,' he said, as the greenbacks were placed in his hand. 'Try it again,' said the affable clerk, as an historical affable spider once said, 'walk into my parlor!' to a foolish policy-playing fly. The man who was five thousand less four hundred dollars out, did try it again. He kept trying it. He kept winning as if a good angel stood behind him dictating the plays. He struck two thousand dollars one day. He followed it up by bagging thirty-two hundred soon after. The lottery folks were afraid of him. Before two months was out the man was 'in' to the tune of twenty-seven thousand dollars. Every third or fourth play seemed to hit. Did he stop and carry his large gains away from the fascination of gaming? He became intensely nervous, wild over his rare fortune. No day but to play. At last the office refused to receive plays from him. This excited him so much that in raving over it he fell down in a fit in the very 'Exchange' where he had made his pile. He was taken to the City Hospital; from there, hopelessly insane, he was taken to the mad-house, on Blackwell's Island. And the best part of the story is that a loving wife and mother, who had vainly attempted to check the husband in his dangerous course, received the money, and, for the first of several years, is enabled to live comfortably, caring for the hapless victim on the Island, part of the time, and devoting the rest to the training of a young son.

Some of the lottery gamblers have a regular system. Their dreams give them numbers to play. If one dreams of a house on fire, a horse running away, a ship sinking at sea, a bald-headed man, or a monkey going up a cocoa-nut tree, straightway he rushes to play the numbers indicated. You would think they were destitute of brains, if in all other things they didn't show plenty of sense. When a man or woman gets lottery-mad, nothing is too absurd for them to do in getting 'numbers.'

The negroes of the city are great policy-players. In every district where they live you will find dingy little lottery offices, patronized mostly by them. Some of them make as much as forty or fifty dollars a week. A negro must play his policy even if bread is lacking at home. Now and then they make a lucky 'gig,' and win a few dollars. Some are born with a policy luck, I do believe. One old darkey woman, a kind, motherly sort of a body, who used to attend to the linen of the house where I resided, has had a wonderful streak of luck in policy. Out of four or five years playing she has obtained money enough to set up a pretty cottage in Harlem, and furnish it well. She says she dreams her numbers! The sale of lottery dream-books is really immense. One firm on Ann street sell several thousand a month of these books, wherein every possible dream is described, and the proper 'policy' attached to it.'

The poverty, the evil, the utter and abominable waste that results from these lotteries, cannot be realized, save by those who have investigated the subject. Hard working, sober men, good citizens, respectable and worthy in every other way, are bound down to this mean gambling, which always keeps them poor, which continually keeps the wolf at their doors. And all for what? That a set of rascals may wear fine linen, and walk Broadway with lofty airs. A man who becomes infatuated in lotteries, becomes lost almost beyond chance. I can count up in passing no less than six men who are mad on policy, who save from food, from clothes, from the family, money, to spend in these lottery hells. They never draw anything. The next time it is hoped better luck will come. So they have gone on for years, and are no nearer the prize. Strange human blindness! They haven't strength enough to dash away from it all; and drop by drop the very life-blood is sucked out of them.

If you want to see anxious faces, drop into one of these 'exchanges' about the time the drawings come in. The office will be full. All classes of men are represented. There is the day-laborer with his tin pail, the merchant with an unmistakable business air, the gambler glittering with diamonds, clerks with inky fingers, men of leisure, cool and vacant looking, and I have even seen very ministerial looking men, who might have been divines, or dealers in a faro bank; it is hard to tell one from the other in New York, where, if a man has a very respectable appearance, he is put down as belonging to one of the two professions. But there is a marked look of concern on all faces, 'waiting for the verdict' on their plays.

The numbers come in from headquarters. One by one they are called off and chalked on the slate, so that he who runs may read. One man has struck something, and his face lights up with joy. It is only a small amount, and instead of blessing his stars that he has been so fortunate, he is bewailing his prudence in staking so little. Another turns away with a dreary sigh, for the slate tells him the same old story of no luck. Another has just hit it - all but one figure! if he had played 'seven' instead of 'six,' what a pile he would have taken in! Yes; but the good managers knew you would play seven, and so were perfectly willing to offer you two hundred dollars for one. A woman crowds her way into the throng. Does she invest in lottery tickets or policy? She has a slip of paper with numbers on, and compares them with the slate. Now she turns away, and there is no light of victory in her eyes.

"Poor fools, waiting, hoping, longing for a prize! The flaring printed poster on the wall tells of fifty thousand dollars to be drawn to-day. A fortune to be paid to the lucky holder of the right ticket. Of course you will all go in for it, lottery maniacs, as you have done many times before. You will lay out hard-earned money - I pity you, but no urging can stop you; and all the while the lottery is laughing in contempt at you; and the radiant managers are flashing costly diamonds in your faces, and enjoying themselves in splendid mansions up town, living on the fat of the land - airing themselves in the Park behind blood horses with famous names - all bought with the dollars you have given them so freely! Work for more and give them! Starve your family to add to the spoils! Go ragged yourselves that they may dress richly! Who knows but that you may draw that tempting prize in time!"