Nothing Doing in Dade County

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-BarreEvening News/January 20, 1934

It is my painful duty to report to the boys around Lindy’s and other points of the Broadway sector, that there is nothing doing down here.

The boys will understand what I mean.

There is golfing, swimming, dog racing, racing, fishing, boating, bridge, pinochle, casino, boxing, aviation, jai lai, wrestling, football, baseball, hunting, eating, drinking, smoking, et cetera, but otherwise, there is nothing doing.

I mean if you are dying, and a little whirl at Mr. Pharaoh’s bank would save your life, you would have to go right ahead and croak as far as Dade County, Florida, is concerned. It sounds heartless, perhaps, but that’s the way it is down here, boys.

Why, I have just learned that an old stickman has been chased out of town because a cop overheard him muttering to himself “’He’s coming out, men,” and all the poor old stickman was doing was exercising his voice so it would not get rusty.

Nary a Wheel Turns

Nary a wheel turns in all the broad confines of Dade. I mean roulette wheel.

Of course, if you like punch boards, you can get a little action around here. There are also several spots along the boulevards where optimistic blokes will bet you they can guess your weight. But they will not bet enough to make it worthwhile to have a pair of shoes made with leaden soles, You finally have to fall back on the horses and dogs. Well, they’re tough enough at that.

Speaking of the horses, Bill Dwyer’s Tropical Park, which opened Dec. 30, has been handling on an average of around $116,000 per day, with a high handle so far of $161,157. On that basis Bill ought to make a little money. He was mighty dubious about the early opening to which he had been forced by the distribution of racing dates down here, but it looks now as if they did him a favor.

Speaking of Dogs

Speaking of the dogs, I attended the opening of the Miami Beach track the other night, and you could scarcely budge for the mob. And this is only one of three dog tracks in operation here. 

The Miami Beach track by the sad sea waves, was originally part of that great dream of George Tex Rickard’s who visioned Florida as the sporting playground of these United States. A big gambling casino was included in the dream.

It was with mainly the idea of bringing crowds to Florida that Rickard promoted the Sharkey that some of the folks might drift into the dog track and the casino while waiting for the fisticuffing to begin. Tex died here following an operation for appendicitis, and his pugilistic promotion rolled on into a $400,000 gate, proving that he was a canny dreamer.

Misses Boom Rush

It is a pity that Tex couldn’t have lived to see the boom-time rush that is now surging into Miami and stacking up against the pari-mutuel windows at the horse and dog tracks. I am inclined to think that the crowd here right now exceeds the unexpected jam at the place last year and they tell me that the official season is just about starting.

It is said that the dog and horse track people do not want the open gambling that has prevailed hereabouts in other years in almost every year, in fact, up to the last year. Their reasons are logical enough. The open gambling seeps in money that might otherwise find its way into the maws of the mutuels. The business people never did care much for the open gambling, and for that matter some of them are not so fond of the mutuels, though they accept the latter as a sort of necessary evil.

Love for Honky-Tonks 

So the open gambling seems to have no friends except the lovers of the picturesque like your correspondent. I used to love those honky-tonks over the garages with the croupiers in full cry. There have been rumors from time to time that a few of the “first class” places might be permitted to turn a casual card and wheel, but I fear there is no hope for the good old honks.

No community that didn’t get in plenty of fresh money every few days could stand the pari-mutuel grind that goes on in Miami at the horse and dog tracks, day and night, for four solid months. It would “milk” any ordinary city dry in a short time. But here the money comes in from all over the country, and new bankrolls are arriving by every train.

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