How Al Capone established a gambling underworld in Chicago

One thing Chicagoans consistently crave is satisfaction of their fascination with gambling, notes Joseph Epstein, a retired Northwestern University professor and student of local mores.

So, as dice start to roll legally in the Windy City, we’re look we’re looking back at the city’s underworld history. The Chicago Tribune’s archives are replete with accounts of the illicit gambling and casinos over the decades when Al Capone and Chicago were synonymous the world over.

Entrepreneurial hoods saw the potential windfall from running gambling operations. Dividing the loot often led to violence.

Al Capone was part of numerous New York street gangs as a teenager, but his true ascent came when mobster Johnny Torrio invited him to work for James “Big Jim” Colosimo in Chicago in 1919.

As a bouncer at a Colosimo bordello, Capone “sampled” some of the prostitutes and contracted syphilis. Left untreated, the disease would affect both his finances and his judgment later on in life.

But in 1925, he was hyper-focused on building an empire. He was 26 when Torrio resigned and handed him the reigns of the Outfit. Profits skyrocketed.

For instance, the Hawthorne Smoke Shop sold tobacco, but it was also a casino-style gambling operation. In 1924, the books showed a net income of $300,000 — around $3.6 million by today’s standards. Meanwhile, the Harlem Inn brothel made $230,000 annually (or about $2.7 million).

“I violate the Prohibition law — sure. Who doesn’t?…There’s only one thing worse than a crook, I think, and that is a crooked man in a big political job, a man who pretends he is enforcing the law and is really making dough out of breaking it. Even a self-respecting hoodlum hasn’t any use for that kind of fella.” — Al Capone

To be clear, Capone operated gambling halls and brothels like these all over town. With his areas of business entirely illegal, they were all cash-based, and thus only reported legally acquired income, such as tobacco sales.

Capone, for one, inherited criminal enterprises in Chicago and then established a dynasty of casinos. Besides muscle and money, Capone used his talent for public relations to deflect attacks on his brazen disregard for the law.

“I give the public whwhat the public wants,” – he once told a reporter.

Based by

About Post Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.