At night Billy
hangs out in a bar where he takes bets from his regulars, but his basic place
of business is as domestic as a housewife's: at a kitchen table and in front of
a television set. The modern bookie, contrary to Runyonesque legend, has all
the glamour of the newspaper rewriteman, the traffic cop, the insurance
salesman, the collection agent. He provides a service much in demand, pays
promptly, works long hours and, as a devoted adherent of free enterprise and
the work ethic should be, he is well rewarded.
The decision of
the New York police force to harass only those bookies who are involved in
deadlier games merits three cheers and an I'll-drink-to-that.
I know a bookie
in suburban Boston who has a master's degree and pays a suburban couple $300 a
week to use a room in their home as an office (from noon to two p.m. and six to
eight p.m., the traditional working hours of bookies). The bookie has two
clerks. In 1971 he grossed approximately $7.3 million, handled $4,645,000
himself and laid off $2,655,000. He furnished these approximate figures
(bookies ordinarily don't keep books) on the bets he personally handled:
contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
He said that his
operating costs, including $20,000 in bad debts, came to about $60,000. He made
I finally met The
Mover, a professional gambler who bets $250,000 a weekend for himself and for
pros in other cities. He is tall, 50ish, foppish and he has modlength white
hair that could be a powdered wig. We talked in a midtown coffee shop near his
He said he didn't
want to be quoted because the courts, under new legal precedents, might force
me to reveal his identity. I assured him that if pressured by the law, I would
develop amnesia or claim the interview was fiction. Researching an illegal
activity, one can't be choosy about sources and methods. Besides that, I didn't
know who he is.
He said he still
had trepidation. I agreed not to quote him directly.