Harlem’s Numbers Game: The Legacy Lives On Around The World

Gambling has a rich history worldwide and with the iGaming industry booming, it continues to remain a popular pastime. Players worldwide have access to a variety of online casino games, like Casumo’s exclusive casino games, live casino games and specialty games. These games all have stories behind them, but none more so than Harlem’s Number Game.

The number game, popularly known as the Italian lottery, has a long everlasting and exciting history that dates back to the 1920s in Harlem. The numbers game’s influence on Harlem’s streets was apparent for a long time. While the game has lost its clout on 110 Street, its effect may still be evident in other forms of gambling. This guide will assist you in learning more about the history and legacy of Harlem’s famed numbers game.


A Brief History of Harlem’s Number


Harlem traces back to some organized crime groups in Italy in the beginning of the 20th century. Harlem’s organized criminal gangs declined to compete with the other mobs operating in the city at the time. Rather than engaging in some of the more prominent mob activities at the time, Harlem’s gangs concentrated on the numbers game.

The numbers game was a form of gambling that worked similarly to how the lottery operates now. The numbers game might be played in a variety of venues across Harlem. In reality, by 1925, Harlem had thirty number banks, each large enough to collect bets for a vast area.

According to researchers, the number racket was circulating billions of dollars by the 1950s. Due to the sizing and popularity of the numbers games, the organizers, dubbed “numbers bosses,” were enormously influential and wealthy. Madame Stephanie St. Clair, dubbed “the Queen of the Policy Rackets,” was one of the most well-known of the numbers bosses. The numbers games were so crucial that Madame Stephanie St. Clair engaged in a gunfight with gangster Dutch Schultz over control of the numbers game trade.

With the introduction of the state lottery, the popularity of the numbers game in Harlem began to drop. This option was legal, but it paid out less money and unlike winners from a numbers game forced beneficiaries to pay taxes on their gains. While the numbers game is no longer played in its original form, its impact can still be seen in other gambling games today.


The Numbers Game’s Legacies


Many distinct variations of the numbers game are currently played in many different places today. For example, some online casinos provide matches based on Harlem’s numbers, such as Keno, a hybrid of Harlem’s numbers and an old Chinese gambling game.

The numbers game’s legacy is not restricted to the limits of gambling houses; in fact, several state lotteries now provide a game in a similar format. State lotteries frequently include ‘daily numbers’ games based on Harlem’s numbers. 

Numbers and Daily numbers are even used by the New York Lottery and the Pennsylvania Lottery to describe their products. Although the game’s regulations have changed, the legacy of Harlem’s numbers game continues in some of the popular gambling games played every day across the world.

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