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High fives for visiting reporters who work bolita into their stories from Tampa



Back in the day, before Tampa's strip clubs became the city's most talked about "vice," there was bolita. Earlier this week I posted something called "Tampa and what's real." In it I mentioned a story on The Daily Beast that mentioned bolita and a forthcoming book by Cigar City Magazine writer Paul Guzzo. His publisher sent me a copy. Two paragraphs from Chapter 4 of The Dark Side of Sunshine:

Bolita was the illegal lottery of Tampa, a prelude to today’s legal lottery. One hundred little wooden or ivory balls numbered 1 thru 100 would be placed in a bag and gamblers would bet on what number or three numbers would be pulled. Though he lacked a formal education, Charlie Wall was an intelligent businessman, even as a teenager. He saved every penny he could and as his bankroll grew, he ceased working as a runner for bolita dealers and began bankrolling bootleg liquor operations and his own bolita games. With a payoff of 85-1, a winning number would pay big dividends to the winner.

Everyone in Tampa was playing–the rich and poor; black, white and Latin; men and women. In 1927, over 300 bolita parlors were located in Tampa and an estimated 1,200 bolita parlors infiltrated every segment of Tampa. In 1927, over $20 million was played on the game. Bolita was able to flourish in such a way because the police and politicians allowed it–and the reason they allowed it was because of Charlie Wall.

Aignos Publishing: "A criminal history of Tampa, Florida, that focuses on the social and political corruption that has haunted the city since its founding in the 1800s. Also looks at the paradox created by the city's founders to portray Tampa as a tropical paradise where everyone gets along while gang wars and racial tensions turned the streets into a bloodbath."

[Last modified: Friday, August 24, 2012 10:45am]


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