Games of chance of all kinds are forbidden in all the States by laws which prescribe various severe penalties for the offence; but in spite of this prohibition, there is no country in the world where gambling is more common than in our own, and no city in the whole Union where it is carried on, to such an extent, as in New York.

There are several classes of gambling houses in the city, which we shall endeavor to describe in their order.

                     FIRST-CLASS HOUSES.

There are very few of these houses in New York - perhaps not more than a dozen in all. They are located in fashionable neighborhoods, and outwardly differ in nothing from the elegant private residences which surround them, except that the blinds are closed all day long, and the house has a silent, deserted air. In its internal arrangements it is magnificent. The furniture, carpets, and all its appointments are superb. Choice paintings and works of art are scattered through the rooms, in truly regal profusion. All that money can do to make the place attractive and luxurious has been done, and as money can always command taste, the work has been well done.

The servants attached to the place are generally negroes of the better class. They are well trained, many of them having been brought up as the valets, or butlers of the Southern gentry, and answer better for such places than whites, inasmuch as they are quiet, uncommunicative, attentive and respectful. One of these men is always in charge of the front door, and visitors are admitted with caution, it being highly desirable to admit only the so-called respectable.

It is said on good authority that it requires an annual outlay of one million of dollars to keep up the first-class gaming houses of the city. This is a large sum, but the profits of the establishments are enormous.

A work recently published in Paris, gives the following description of the establishment of a famous gentleman whose history is more like a romance than a reality.

                     JOHN MORRISSEY'S HOUSE.

"My companion nodded to a servant standing in the hall," says the writer referred to, "and we were allowed to enter. We went through an elegantly furnished parlor, in which were many frequenters of the house, either conversing or reading newspapers. We next entered a large room lighted by numerous gas-jets. In the centre of this apartment was a long table covered with green cloth. The room was crowded with persons busily engaged in gambling. Different games of chance are in vogue in the United States; but the favorite game of European gamblers, roulette, was not tolerated in the establishment we were then visiting. In almost all the States, games of chance, for money, no matter what its amount, are prohibited, and gambling houses, being considered as contrary to good morals, are forbidden. Gambling for money was not, therefore, ostensibly carried on. The stakes consisted of counters or checks provided by the establishment. The gamblers settled their losses by means of these checks or counters, representing an understood value. In this manner, it appears, the letter, if not the spirit of the law was satisfied. In case of a sudden descent from the police, it was impossible to prove that the persons engaged in the games were playing for money, as no money, in fact, was apparent.

"'There is no people,' said Asmodeus, in the course of his explanations, 'that exhibits more respect for the law than the Americans; but none understands so well how to eschew it when it interferes with its own interests.'

"My companion also informed me that no one can recover money lost in gambling, because gambling itself is illegal. But debts of that nature are as secure as any other, especially among professional gamblers, and they are seldom repudiated.

"'All those counters and checks,' said he, 'are as good as gold, and, in this respect, no difficulty can arise. But there are, in two or three adjoining rooms, games of different kinds conducted in private; and the house, of course, is not responsible for the stakes. Money may be lost on parole there; but the loser who will not or can not make good his promise, generally finds himself in a dangerous predicament. For though there be a few men here who came attracted either by curiosity or because they have nothing else to do, the majority are professional gamblers, whose revolvers are always kept ready for great emergencies.'

"Besides the table in the centre of the room, there were half a dozen others in remote corners, and also in adjoining rooms, and which, as Asmodeus had observed, were occupied by persons engaged in some favorite game. Around the large table stood an anxious crowd. There was evidently an exciting game in operation. Near the centre of the table was seated a banker or dealer, with a large quantity of checks at his right hand, of the denomination of five, ten, twenty dollars, and upward. Thirteen cards, representing a complete pack, were affixed to the table, at convenient distances from each other, to mark distinctly the bets placed on each. Those who wished to play placed the amount they intended to stake on any particular card on the table. The dealer then producing and shuffling a pack of cards, placed them in a box, from which he caused them to slide one by one. He lost when the card equal in points to that on which the stake was set turned up on his right hand; but he won when it was on the left. He faithfully and gravely fulfilled his part, as though he were a public notary or any other officer of the law. Every one seemed satisfied with his dealings and decisions; for, during our stay in this 'hell,' (a name commonly given in America to all gambling houses,) no exclamation of any sort was made by the gamblers.

"I took him, at first, for the proprietor of the establishment. 'You are mistaken,' said Asmodeus; 'the host is that stout man whose necktie is pinned with a large diamond, and who is playing a game of ecartenear yonder window, with a constant frequenter of his house. A few years ago, he was one of the most renowned pugilists in the United States. With the profits derived from his victims in the manly art, he purchased a fine house, in which congregated the patrons and amateurs of that art, which is more in vogue to-day in America than in England. Shortly after, he found himself, perhaps unexpectedly, the manager of a faro bank. The game of faro is now in progress at the green table. He gradually withdrew himself from the noisy companions of his younger years, and soon had the gratification to behold bankers, brokers, merchants, and men belonging to the wealthy classes flock to his establishment. As his business rapidly increased, he purchased this handsome house, situated in one of the most fashionable streets of New York. It has become a favorite resort for many persons of good standing in society, and for 'the fancy' of New York. All transactions are above suspicion, for deception would be a dangerous experiment. The landlord is married, and very careful that everything is carried on in an orderly manner. Women are not admitted into the gaming-rooms, or even into the parlors of the house. An elegant supper is served up, every evening, to frequenters and visitors.

"At this very moment a footman came and announced supper. Most of the gamblers did not heed the invitation, so deeply engrossed were they in the game. A few spectators, Asmodeus and myself amongst them, went down into the dining-room, which was, like all the others in the establishment, handsomely furnished. Several ornamental sideboards were loaded with luxuries. Champagne of the best brands was freely passed around; and when supper was over, the landlord treated his guests to the best Havana segars. I expected we would have to face a pretty heavy bill for this entertainment, and was on the point of pulling out my porte-monnaie, when Asmodeus whispered me to do nothing of the sort. 'Such a proceeding,' said he, 'would be resented as an outrage by the proprietor.' Everybody, whether known to him or not, may come here, and either take part in or look at the game; as often as may suit his fancy, and enjoy a good supper besides. The proprietor hardly notices those visitors who come solely for the purpose of partaking of the good things served up at his suppers, and drinking his champagne.'"

                     HOW THE VICTIMS ARE PROCURED.

"Those who keep gambling houses," continues the writer from whom we have just quoted, "take care to be regularly informed of everything transpiring in the city that maybe of interest to their business. You may have noticed, lounging around the most fashionable hotels, many well-dressed young men, who spend their money freely, though they have no known means of support. They are agents for gambling-houses: their business is to track the footsteps of travellers visiting New York, for business or pleasure. They worm themselves into the confidence of strangers; show them everything worth seeing in the city; and finally introduce them to their employers, the gambling-house proprietors. This hunting after wealthy strangers is systematically carried on - it is a science. These agents leave nothing to chance; they never hurry up the conclusion of the transaction. When the unwary stranger is in a fit condition for the sacrifice, they take him to the gaming table with as much indifference and coolness as butchers drive sheep to the slaughter house. These agents have a commission on the profits realized from all the customers they lead to the gaming table, and they display such ability that they seldom fail to entrap those they single out for their victims."

It is a safe rule to suspect every one who approaches you with offers of friendship without being properly introduced. Shun all such society, for the hope of ruining you is all that induces the men to seek you.

                     GAMING A NATIONAL PASSION.

"There are in New York one hundred and fifty hells or gambling houses, all well known to the police, in which several millions of dollars are lost every year, by unwary persons. From time to time, police officers make a descent on the most dangerous among them, or (which is too often the case) on those whose owners have little political influence. Twenty-four hours after the descent has taken place, new gambling implements are procured in lieu of those taken away, and business is resumed as before.

"Games of chance are now in vogue all over the States, and rapidly multiplying, because the thirst for sudden fortunes is everywhere on the increase. Gambling is even practised on board of those splendid steamers, that ply up and down the rivers of the country; and more than one passenger, driven distracted by his losses at the gaming table, has thrown himself overboard.

"As I have before remarked, no cheating is to be apprehended here, as the percentage, taken beforehand out of the stakes, secures handsome profits to the proprietor of the house. But fraud is frequently resorted to in many hells; and in some of them, whether he loses or wins, the visitor is sure to be plundered of his valuables before he is allowed to depart. Blood is often shed in these places, their frequenters providing themselves, against emergency, with weapons of every description. Some gambling houses hire handsome females, and the allurements of these sirens are added to the dangers of the gaming table. New York keeps pace, in all these respects, with the large cities of Europe; and in many maisons de joie, unsuspecting persons run the risk, at any moment of the day or night, of losing their fortunes, their health, and their honor."

                     THE GUESTS.

"The persons who frequent gambling houses may be divided into two classes: occasional gamblers and professional gamblers. Among the first may be placed those attracted by curiosity, and those strangers I have alluded to who are brought in by salaried intermediaries. The second is composed of men who gamble to retrieve their losses, or those who try to deceive and lull their grief through the exciting diversions that pervade these places.

"I see, for instance, to the right of the dealer, a tall man, with a well-trimmed beard. He is a general in the United States army, and married a young girl belonging to one of our best families. A few years after his marriage his wife disappeared. As she seemed much attached to her husband, and a model of chastity, the general belief was that she had been the victim of some foul outrage. The friends of her family, and the police, made active but fruitless search for her; and the lady's disappearance remained enveloped in mystery, until she was recognized by an American traveller, an acquaintance, in an Italian city. It appears she had removed there, after her mysterious disappearance from her native land, and lived quite comfortably with a comrade-in-arms of her husband. The general has been unable, up to this day, to forget his unfaithful wife, and he comes here, every night, to endeavor, by gambling, to divert his mind from grief.

"Near him, that man, whose fingers are loaded with showy rings, and who affects womanish manners, is the owner of a newspaper which delights in praising the aristocratic institutions of the Old World - a harmless pastime, in which and one can safely indulge, in a country where there is no law against the press, and where everybody may relieve his mind of any foolish idea or fancy without injury to anything but his reputation. Gambling is more than a passion to that personage - it is his very life, as necessary to him as the air he breathes. He has organized lotteries throughout the States, and though they are prohibited by severe laws, he has found the means to evade them all, and build up a large fortune. He often plays very high, and recently very nearly broke the bank. The latter met with a loss of two hundred thousand dollars.

"The gambler who is now leaving the gaming-table, is a teller in one of our city banks. He long enjoyed the confidence of the directors; but, a few days ago, they decided to have him watched, after office hours - a measure now resorted to by many financial institutions, on account of frequent defalcations. To-morrow morning, that teller will be requested by the board of directors to show his books, and give an account of the situation and prospects of the bank. But, in spite of his proficiency in book-keeping, he will be unable to figure up and represent the seventy-five thousand dollars he has squandered away in gambling houses since he commenced, six months ago, to frequent them.

"I also recognize at the table a lawyer, who, a few years ago, married a courtesan, in whom covetousness for wealth had become, during the last years of her life, a ruling passion. A few weeks after their marriage, the courtesan died, bequeathing the lawyer all her fortune. It was surmised, at the time, that she had been poisoned; and perhaps her husband comes here to drown his remorse.

"That black-haired, rather corpulent man, whose visage is spoiled by a dishonest glance, and demeanor tarnished by an innate vulgarity, is a teacher of foreign languages. He assumes important airs, as teachers generally do and though affecting, in his discourse, a Puritan austerity, few men are more intensely devoted to the pursuit of gain. An adventurer, he had but one purpose in view when he settled in the United States and commenced teaching - to find an heiress. After a fruitless search among his young pupils of the fair sex, he finally fascinated and married a spinster. Her savings are nightly dwindling away at the gaming table."

                     A CARD-TABLE ROMANCE.

One of the city journals recently published the following account of an affair, which occurred some time since, at one of the best-known gaming hells of Broadway. The parties referred to are members of one of the wealthiest and most fashionable families in the city:

For some weeks past, one of the most fashionable Broadway gambling houses had been honored with the presence of a dashing young man, apparently not more than nineteen or twenty years of age. The gentleman gave his name as Dick Harley, and professed to hail from New Orleans. As he displayed a well-filled pocketbook, he was welcomed, of course.

In play he was remarkably lucky, for a time, at least. This attracted additional attention, and not only made him an object of envy, but of jealousy. Many of the most expert resorted to all the known arts of the game in order to pluck the youngster, but were themselves sold.

During all these visits, young Harley appeared to feel an especial interest in one of the visitors, who was known to hold a responsible position in a down-town banking house. This person was nearly always a loser, and his manner plainly told the fact that those losses greatly affected him. He was always uneasy, his eyes inflamed, and his hand trembling, while he would often start to his feet, and walk up and down the apartment, in a manner bordering on frenzy. It soon began to be whispered around that the man was utterly ruined - that there would soon be another bank defalcation sensation, and perhaps a suicide.

For some time, young Harley had made efforts to gain the exclusive attention of the bank officer, but had failed to do so. At length, however, he was successful, and the New Orleans buck and the ruined gamester sat down together.

Fortune now appeared to change. Harley had fifty thousand dollars in his possession, which he had won. But he began to lose now, and the bank officer was the winner. The game continued, and still Harley lost. He remained perfectly calm in the mean time, while the winner became even more excited than while he was unfortunate.

At length the fifty thousand dollars changed hands, and the banker asked,

'Shall we continue the game, sir?

'No,' replied Harley.

'But you want a chance for revenge?

'No, I will play no more with you. However, I would like to make one condition.'

'What is it?'

'Step aside with me, and you shall know.'

Harley and the winner stepped a little apart, when the former whispered.

'Sir, your manner has spoken only too plainly that your losses were about to involve you in trouble. Those losses have but just commenced; but if you continue your play, they will soon be very great, and yourself and family will be crushed. You have won sufficient to-night to save your honor, have you not?

'Thank God, yes,' was the earnest reply.

'Then the condition I would make is this: leave this place and never enter it again.'

'I'll do it,' was the almost frantic response, and the banker turned to leave the room.

At the same time, those around had no idea of losing such, an opportunity as now presented itself. That fifty thousand dollars must again change hands. One of the men present advanced, and, laying his hands upon the shoulder of Harley, said:

'Look you, youngster, you are going a little too far. You have won from us largely.'

'Aye, and lost again,' was the calm reply.

'So have we; and you must not stand in the way of our making good that loss.'

'How can I possibly do so?'

'By persuading the winner of your money to play no more.'

'Have I not a right to do it?'


'Then I shall assume that right.'

As Harley said this he caught the bank officer by the arm, and led him toward the door. But the little fellow was instantly seized, and hurled to the opposite side of the room, where he fell with considerable violence.

Instantly he sprang to his feet, while his eyes flashed fire. At the same time, he drew a revolver, and exclaimed:

'Stand from that door, or there will be blood shed here.'

On occasions of this kind, revolver generally answers revolver. It was so on this occasion; and Harley received two shots, which sent him reeling upon the carpet. A crimson spot appeared near his temple, and he clutched his breast with his hands.

Of course, there were those present who did not like the idea of murder, and such sprang forward to the aid of the wounded lad. A black wig fell from his head, and then long golden locks were exposed to view. The vest was opened, and the bosom palpitating beneath the spotless linen was that of a woman.

The surprise of all was very great, and none more so than that of the young bank officer, when he discovered in Dick Harley no other than his own sister. She had learned of the gaming, and had followed him in order to save him from ruin. She had succeeded, for no person now attempted to molest her. The wound upon the head was but slight, although it stunned her for a few moments.

She left the house with her brother, and it is not likely that either of them will ever enter it again.

                     SECOND-CLASS HOUSES.

There are many establishments of this description in the city. They are neither so elegantly furnished nor so exclusive as to their guests as the first-class houses. There is also another important difference. In a first-class house, the visitor is sure to meet men who will deal fairly with him; and if he loses, as he is almost sure to do, it is because he is playing against more expert hands than himself. This is what is called a "square game." Everything is open and fair, and the bank relies on the fickleness of the cards and the superior skill of its dealer. In the second-class houses, however, the visitor is literally fleeced. Every advantage is taken of him, and it is morally certain that he will lose every cent he risks. In first-class houses, one can play or look on, as he pleases. In second-class houses, the visitor who declines to risk something is in danger of personal violence. He will be insulted by the proprietor or one of his myrmidons; and if he resents the insult, his life hangs by a very slender thread. The "runner" system is practiced very extensively in connection with these houses. The visitor is plied with liquor unceasingly during his stay in the rooms, and the losses of the unfortunate man during this period of semi-unconsciousness are frightful.

Many persons coming to the city yield to the temptation to visit these places, merely to see them. They intend to lose only a dollar or two as the price of the exhibition. Such men voluntarily seek the danger which threatens them. Nine out of ten who go there merely through curiosity, lose all their money. The men who conduct the "hell" understand how to deal with such cases, and are rarely unsuccessful.

It is in these places that clerks and other young men are ruined. They lose, and play again, hoping to make good their losses. In this way they squander their own means; and too frequently commence to steal from their employers, in the vain hope of regaining all they have lost.

There is only one means of safety for all classes - Keep away from the gaming table altogether.

                     DAY GAMBLING HOUSES

At first gambling was carried on only at night. The fascination of the game, however, has now become so great, that day gambling houses have been opened in the lower part of the city. These are located in Broadway, below Fulton street, and in one or two other streets within the immediate neighborhood of Wall street.

These "houses," as they are called, are really nothing more than rooms. They are located on the top floor of a building, the rest of which is taken up with stores, offices, etc. They are managed on a plan similar to the night gambling houses, and the windows are all carefully closed with wooden shutters, to prevent any sound being heard without. The rooms are elegantly furnished, brilliantly lighted with gas, and liquors and refreshments are in abundance. As the stairway is thronged with persons passing up and down, at all hours of the day, no one is noticed in entering the building for the purpose of play. The establishment has its "runners" and "ropers in," like the night houses, who are paid a percentage on the winnings from their victims, and the proprietor of the day-house is generally the owner of a night-house higher up town.

Square games are rarely played in these houses. The victim is generally fleeced. Men who gamble in stocks, curbstone brokers, and others, vainly endeavor to make good a part of their losses at these places. They are simply unsuccessful. Clerks, office-boys, and others, who can spend but a few minutes and lose only a few dollars at a time, are constantly seen in these hells. The aggregate of these slight winnings by the bank is very great in the course of the day. Pickpockets and thieves are also seen here in considerable numbers. They do not come to practice their arts, for they would be shown no mercy if they should do so, but come to gamble away their plunder, or its proceeds.