How Gamblers Operate Gambling as Business

Players attested the legitimacy of gambling in San Francisco--- by betting in the two-three, and four-story brick buildings clustered at the city center.

Gaming clubs functioned as one of the few forums for society in the raw metropolis.

In addition, the establishments served as respectable businesses that attracted money to the town and provided revenues for municipal government.

Although some Easterners and foreigners condemned the halls, early Californians generally welcomed them as additions that contributed constructively to their city.

In regarding gaming as a legitimate enterprise in the years around mid-century, San Franciscans gave implicit approval to the professional gambler whose respectability was bound up with that of his games.

Argonauts perhaps understood that, like themselves, the gambler had come to California to make money quickly and easily, although the profession was not an automatic ladder toward upward mobility.

More importantly, although the gambler still liked to have an edge in his line of work, he operated games that were more 'square' than those on the river.

He became known less as a sharper than a dealer, he made his money less by cheating than by maintaining sizable percentages in his favor, and he maximized income not by increasing the stakes, but by increasing the volume.

All of these changes indicated that gaming had turned into a more refined industry.

There was some confusion at this point, in part, because various forms of cheating and deception still occurred, and in part because to many from the East or from Europe, public and commercial gambling remained immoral.

Even as as Alfred Dolten spoke of gamblers as 'dealers' and discussed the percentages they employed, he continued to call them 'professional blacklegs'.

Europeans suspected corruption, too, perhaps because they mistrusted the democratic style of play or the unfamiliarly high percentages that San Francisco dealers used to their advantage.

When Frenchman Albert Bernard de Russailh likened far western gaming to 'organized robbery', he may simply have been taken aback by a system of odds that gave operators such an unbeatable edge.

But those who knew best agreed that gamblers were relatively honest.

Dealers' stoic behavior probably suggested that they expected to win one way or another, and their tables piled high with gold and silver seemed to demonstrate to critical spectators that they never lost.

Both the residents of early California, who frequented gambling dens and regarded dealers as respectable citizens and reformed and retired gamblers, looking back on golden days, concluded that most games were comparatively clean and straightforward.