|State Street Crap Game|
The importance of gambling to the Mafia cannot be overestimated. It provides the mob with the money and power to set up other operations that the public finds less wholesome such as narcotics dealing and murder.
A case in point, Brooklyn's State Street Crap Game, operated by the mob in the 1930s, financed Murder, Inc., the official mob extermination branch. The game was run in a building just off the busy corner of State and Court Streets in downtown Brooklyn. It was for high rollers, attracting wealthy businessmen, and, at times, even police brass and politicians—who suffered big losses and ended up beholden to the gangsters.
Abe Reles, together with Pittsburgh Phil Strauss, one of the two most important hit men of Murder, Inc., was designated by crime bosses Louis Lepke and Albert Anastasia to be the official shylock of the game.
Reles's underlings would move among the players, wads of money at the ready, making loans at a trifling 20 percent interest—per week. (Mob hit men are seldom if ever paid for any particular murder, but are usually put on a sort of retainer, often consisting of exclusive rights to a certain racket, such as gambling.)
The play per night at the State Street game was usually in excess of $100,000, and Reles's nightly profit from the shylock operation was, by his own estimate, anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. And the businessmen—compulsive gamblers who ended up paying huge amounts of "or else" interest—never realized they were footing the bill for murder.
When Reles turned stool pigeon concerning Murder, Inc., operations, the authorities cracked down on the State Street game with a subsequent big loss to the mob. However, gambling is the easiest racket to get started anew and with the public, the politicians, the police—up to and including J. Edgar Hoover— claiming gambling was at most a "minor" crime, the mob's loss was hardly irretrievable.