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Gambling is carried on Openly at West Baden Springs


Roby in Its Palmiest Days Was Not a "Marker"
to This American Calsbad

In the Hotel the Gambling Room is Located and Faro, Roulette, Stud Poker, "Old Hy" and Other Enticing Games are Presided Over by Well Known "Good People" from Chicago - The "Sure Thing" Gamblers Work in Tents on the Outside - A full expose.

From The Indianapolis Sentinel

West Baden Springs, July 12, - Special -

The time has come when it is due the people of Indiana that they know of the condition of affairs that exists at this place. It is called the "Carlsbad of America." The "Monte Carlo of America" would be a more appropriate name, for there never was a place in the United States where gambling was conducted with freer license than at West Baden.

Roby, with all its infamy and the disgrace it brought upon the State, was mild in its worst days as compared with this place. It is a different sort of gambling, perhaps, but of a more demoralizing nature than the worst ever instituted at Roby. The race track is wanting and there is an air of gentility here that perhaps was wanting at Roby, but this makes the matter all the worse and the effect upon society more marked. Roby was published to the world, its evils were told and expatiated upon until finally, when the local authorities failed to put an end to it, the State stepped in to save her fair name and Roby is no more.

But here at West Baden has sprung up an institution that is far more disastrous in its effects than Roby ever world have been had it continued on the lines originally marked out and followed until it closed. Here it goes on as a sort of a refined pastime and is as open as any line of legitimate business. Roby was an evil because of the element it brought into the State from Chicago. The gambling which these people indulged in could never have hurt them. They were gamblers for the most part and no influence which the existence of Roby could have exerted would ever have caused their degeneration. But the State objected to being made a dumping ground for the vices of Chicago and the institution was broken up.

At this place all is different. There are no great crowds of gamblers and toughs flocking in here on account of advertised races and gambling institutions. But the gamblers are here and their work is of an insidious nature that is hard to counteract. Their work if ruin is such that it not only results in the fleecing of many an unwary visitor, who has come here for health or pleasure, but tends to create a demoralizing influence upon the residents of the place and upon the visitors who come here in such large numbers during the summer months. Women and children are as susceptible to the influence as men, for the gambling room at the hotel is just as open as a dining room or parlors.


It seems that the local authorities will do nothing to suppress the evil. The people have ceased to importune them and have now turned to the people of the State for relief. If the thing must go on it must be with the full knowledge of all the people of the State, for the respectable people of Orange County will not longer bear the shame and disgrace of it alone.

West Baden is in Orange County about 115 miles southwest of Indianapolis and fifteen miles from Orleans and the main line of the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railroad. The county itself does not boast of the best reputations, for the reason that here whitecapism originated. But whitecapism in its pristine meaning was not the lawlessness that it has since become The original white cape of Orange County were law-abiding and organized for the purpose of ridding the county of such desperadoes as the Archer Brothers, whose gang was such a terror to the good people of the county about ten years ago. The people are of average intelligence and are as law-biding on the average as any people of the State. The country us rough and hilly and thinly populated and there is consequently reason for the lawlessness which have formerly existed where there could be little restraint.

But times have changed. West Baden had become a noted health and pleasure resort, and during the summer months thousands of people from all parts of the United States visit the place. Crime has also changed in form, and instead of the former raids of the Archer gang, in which robberies were committed in true frontier style, the thefts are committed by a gang of genteel parasites in the form of a lot of gamblers imported from Chicago. Close to the Springs is erected a large four story hotel. it is very rough in its construction and uncouth in its arrangement. True, there are electric lights in every room, but they burn only until 10 o'clock at night and are then replaced by candles, and in the hallways and corridors kerosene lamps burn all night. With this arrangement, when it is considered that there are many drunken men among the guest and many are compelled to be about the corridors at all hours of the night, the probabilities of a disastrous fire are great.


This, however, is immaterial to the story. This hotel as well as the lands adjoining and the Springs are owned by Lee W. Sinclair and E. B. Rhodes and these men leave nothing undone which will bring a dollar into their already overflowing coffers. One of the most profitable of their many institutions is the gambling privilege. In the most conspicuous room in the house are the gambling devices. The room is almost in the center of the house on the lower floor and more accessible than the dining room. The house is made of two main buildings joined together with three wings on one side and one on the opposite side of them. The room devoted to gambling being in the center of the main building, is approached by corridors from almost every direction. Here are fitted up almost every device known to gambling- roulette, faro, 'old Hy', stud poker, draw poker and dice games.

Outside of the building and near the walk between two if the springs is a tent in which another gambling device is rigged up to catch a certain element which the other games fails to fascinate. This consists of a race track with six imitation horses and a mule. The horses are painted two colors and are numbered from one to six and the mule is called "Orphan Boy." A crank and geared attachment spins these animals around a small race course and the betting is on the results of the race. Five to one are the odds paid for picking the winner; two to one for a place and even money for third. That is if a wager is made that a certain horse or the mule will come first in the race the better, of his horse wins, will be paid $5 for each $1 wagered; if he bets that his horse or the mule will come out either first or second and wins he is paid $2 for each $1 wagered; if he bets that horse or mule will get either first, second or third place and wins he simply gets $1 for each $1 wagered, or even money can be bet on color. The house in this institution always has "a mule" the best of it and with the number of possible winners so small this is decidedly an advantage.


There are few people who stop at this hotel who do not either play at some of the games offered or visit the rooms where they are played. The privileges are enjoyed by Joseph Cook, Ed Randall, "Mickey" Woodruff and Joe Metriss, all well-known Chicago gamblers, who pay a fancy price into the Sinclair-Rhodes coffers. It is said on good authority that these gentlemen pay no less than $2,500 for the season and besides this agree that they, their wives and friends and a score of employees and their wives shall board at the hotel and pay a fair price.

The women who are supposed to be wives of these men cut a big figure in the gambling at this place. There are half a dozen of them and they are of the average intelligence and good appearance and dress always in the best of style. They are therefore easily taken for the wives or daughters of the respectable people who visit the place by the thousands during the summer. These women loiter about the gambling rooms and act as cappers to inveigle men and women into the places and they are wonderfully successful. The novelty of seeing a woman betting at the "wheel" will attract the attention of men who in turn will take a hand at the game. Women, too, seeing these women in the rooms will not hesitate to enter. They have seen these women and believe them to be perfectly respectable. There is a feeling that this must be the "proper" thing at West Baden and into the gambling room they go, very often taking children with them. They, too, are drawn on by a desire to speculate and very often they will lose large sums of money on the first visit to the room. One trip creates a desire for another and so it has come about that the gambling rooms at the hotel at West Baden are rarely without women players.


This woman gambler element at West Baden has a terrible effect upon the social conditions. A place of this kind is usually a place of meeting during hot weather of society people. And it is true that many such people are here now and will continue to come, but not more than once after they see how 
things are going. During the past few weeks there more than once after they see how things are going. During the past few weeks there have been many of the most prominent citizens of Chicago and Northern Illinois here, anyone of whom could, perhaps, buy the entire county. They are men of the world, who have seen things in the world as they are and who are yet members of the very best society. A general surprise was in store for them when they saw how things were going here, and there was a general avowal among them that they would not allow their families to visit the place. Of course, many of the best people coming here do not mingle with the gamblers and their women, but many others equally as respectable and occupying as high positions in society are thrown in with them before they know their character. They are bound to meet in the dining room and parlors. The fact that the guest are transient and that there is consequently a disposition to tolerate most anything for a while is all that has prevented a general uprising of the guest. This fact has also, perhaps, saved the gamblers the position they occupy. It is not because they have not reaped a harvest from the many victims they have made during the summer that there has been no loud protest against them. Far from it; they have skinned the guest of the hotel day after day and night after night by the score and hundred and have made a small fortune out of their business. But the guest are transient and feel like they are strangers and a protest would be useless in a place where the gambling is such an open industry. Then, too, there are among the victims persons who occupy such positions at home that they cannot afford to let it be known that they have been gambling there. Others are too proud to acknowledge that somebody got the best of them. These circumstances, coupled with the protection received from the county officials, render the gamblers pretty secure from molestation and they realize full well their security.


Another and more dangerous element of the society of West Baden Spring is the "sure thing" gambler. He flourishes at the hotel and is allied very closely with Cook and his partners. Not that the latter are not sure winners; they have a big per cent the best of their patrons and cannot fail to win, but there is a bare possibility that their games may be beaten. Not so, however, with the other element. The many who falls into the hands of the "deacon" and his gang has no more show than he has of flying. This gang has a room over a restaurant east of the railroad, where they have fleeced many a man, among them several Indianapolis men. A few of the leaders of this gang are Dan Levy, Q. A. Birch, "Scarface Mike" and the "Deacon". This latter gentleman's name is John Miller, and he is commonly called "Doc" by his friends and by the guest at the hotel who are acquainted with his game he is called the "Deacon." He has the appearance of a very pious man and would easily be taken for a circuit rider or the superintendent of a country Sunday School. His appearance is his stock in trade, and on the strength of it has he been enabled to "steer" many a poor "sucker" up "against" the "big unit".

These men all stop at the hotel and cannot be distinguished by the newcomer from the hundreds of other guest. Their game is the old confidence racket. They play for persons who will not get snared by the open gambling tables in the hotels. A man's confidence once won, he is accidently escorted to the room over the restaurant, where a game of stud poker is in progress. The stakes are enormous and a bet of a hundred dollars is not at all infrequent. The "steerer" is invited to take a hand, and says the dealer: "Will your friend join us?"


The steerer accepts the invitation and if the victims accepts he very soon finds himself "broke," and here is the way it is done. He gets an ace full on kings; another man, called among the fraternity, "the silent hand," gets four trays. One of the trays, however, is the "hole" card and is not exposed to view as the other four cards. Of the four cards exposed to view one is a queen and the other three are trays, but one of the trays is so covered as to look like an ace, and it invariably happens that the dealer in throwing the cards manages to cover the tray of the suit of which the victim has not the ace. Here then is a player with four trays, but to the observer who dies not know the trick it does not appear that he can have more than three trays, for there appears to be only two in sight. On the opposite side of the table sits another player known as the "kicker". He has three queens in sight. As the betting proceeds all the players but these three drop out. The victim sizes up the situation, and is confident that he cannot be beaten. He has an ace full (two aces and two kings in sight, and an ace buried) and the best the man on the right can have is a queen full, for the man at his left has one queen. The man on his left apparently cannot have a better hand than three tray. The ace full is, therefore, the best hand, and it is rarely that a man who will sit down and gamble at all won't bet on it for all he has. The man with the three queens does all the raising, the man with the trays simply calling as the bet goes round. It is, therefore, with no little surprise that the victim finds that he has been betting against four of a kind.

If the victim is ushered into the room, he refuses to play, the "friend" asks him to wait a few minutes until he plays a few hands. The "friend" plays and is very lucky. In the course of a few deals he wins several hundred dollars and generously shoves a stack of checks over to the victim with the remark:

"Play these for me and you may have all you win. I guess I'm lucky and can afford to divided a good thing."

This friendly proffer and a chance to get into the enticing game without risk is more than most men, who will go to the place, can stand. The victim generally gets in and then when he gets the "big mit" he will bet all the checks and all the money he has on it.

The most successful "steerer" that has been at the Springs this season was the notorious all-round confidence man, Bill Trailor, alias Col. Taylor. He was so successful in his work and succeeding in robbing men so fast that there was a general uprising among his victims and he was compelled to leave the place. But he has an able successor in the person of the "Deacon".


This latter class of gamblers also populates the "Shell Road", as the road between West Baden Springs and French Lick Springs has been called on account of a number of grafters and shell workers that frequent the road.The road is a very popular walk; almost everybody who visits either of the two resorts walks over to the other and back. It is along the road between the two places that the shell-workers lay for their victims and they find them, too. Just a day or two ago a Hebrew gentleman and his wife were at the hotel and the former, with his native fondness for gaming, was in the habit of playing the horses; but his wife would unbraid him most severely for losing a dollar or two. The other day they started to walk to French Lick and on the way met "Scarfaced Mike" and a confederate who was acting as a capper. The capper was just posting his money for a bet that he could pick out the shell under which lay the ball when Jake and his wife came upon them. The two gamblers were greatly excited and the two pedestrians stopped just in time to see the capper pick out the ball and win a handsome bet.

Again were the shells manipulated and Mike offered to accept any bet that the ball could not be located. Now, Jake could see from his position and so could his wife, just where the ball lay. In fact, Mike had been careless enough to let the shell rest on the ball and the latter could be seen plainly.

I'll bet you," cried Jake, and his wife was as eager as he was to get a go at the good thing.

"All right. How much?" was Scarfaced Mike's obliging answer.

"I'll bet you $30 - all I've got - that its under this shell." and Jake clapped his hand down upon the shell before the ball should disappear while with the other hand fished up his roll. In her excitement, for fear they should not get the benefit of such a sure thing, his wife clapped her hand on top of his and watched the shell while Jake put up his money. They the shell was raised and the ball - wasn't there. Jake lost with his wife's consent and approval on an iron clad cinch.

There are a score of these games going on every afternoon along this road and the victims number into the hundreds. Sunday is the favorite day, this being the day when more excursions are made between the two resorts. There is no Sabbath at West Baden Springs. One day is like another there. The gamblers flourish just the same and the suckers are fleeced just as openly. It is one continual round of joy to the gambler and the landlords of the hotel - but what is it for the victims of their numerous snares?