The Numbers Game

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Gambling on the numbers game in America has been prevalent (though illegal at the time) since the mid-19th Century. By the early 20th century through the mid 1960’s, the games became widespread. Organized crime in major cities throughout the country jumped on the numbers bandwagon. Bettors could wager as little as a penny on a 3 digit number for a chance at a 600/1 payoff, though the true odds were 1000/1. The profits were enormous and the crime lords had full control of what was called the numbers racket. Runners were employed to collect money and betting slips from the betting parlors (taverns, grocery stores, etc.) and bring it to the headquarters, known as a policy bank.

In 1967 the New York State Legislature was the first in the nation to legalize numbers. They once called it the numbers racket and the lowest, meanest, worst form of gambling in New York but legalized it anyway to benefit education and put more money into state coffers. New games were eventually added and the daily numbers games became legal. Innovative ways to play 3 digit and 4 digit games were introduced. Politicians quickly refrained from using the term numbers racket.

Here is a description of two popular daily Games which are available in states that offer them:

3 Digit Numbers Game

Drawings are twice a day, mid-day and evening. Wager as little as fifty cents per play. You can wager straight. Assume your favorite number is 620. If the winning number was drawn in that order, you win $250 for a fifty cent bet, $500 for a one dollar bet. A box bet is wagering that 620 will come in any one of six possible combinations. 620; 062; 026; 206; 260; and 602. The payout is $40 for fifty cents or $80 for one dollar. You may also make a straight/box wager. Or, if your number has two like digits such as 332, wager a fifty cent or one dollar combo for $1.50 or $3.00 to win $250 or $500 for any of the three ways the number can be made. 332, 233, or 323.

4 Digit Numbers Game

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