As I researched this book I noticed a pattern in Saratoga Springs. Gambling was allowed to a certain extent until one reformer or another made an attempt to stop it. There were occasional raids and sometimes the reformers were successful in stopping the gambling for a short time. Other times, there were raids and the gamblers kept right on gambling, seeming to have no fear of the law.
When the village of Saratoga Springs was established, the original charter specifically directed the police board to stop gambling. Not other forms of vice, like prostitution or selling liquor on Sunday, but gambling. The first temperance movement met in Saratoga Springs as did the first meeting of the American Bar Association. Early attempts were made to close John Morrissey’s place, raids were made by representatives of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and even Richard Canfield was raided.
Clearly there was always a law-and-order segment of the population of Saratoga Springs that wanted the town cleaned up but local officials and the majority of residents did not see the gambling as so much of a problem. In fact, John Morrissey was a sitting Congressman when he was operating his gambling place across from the railroad depot before he open the track and allowed gambling to be carried on there. Village residents elected Caleb Mitchell President of the village three times despite his owning and operating a gambling dive right on Broadway. Clearly, in the struggle between good and evil, evil seemed to always keep the upper hand in the first century of Saratoga’s history.
I found two articles where Richard Canfield expressed his views on gambling to a reporter. In the first article I was impressed at his ability to predict the future when he said that someday gambling would be licensed by the state with gamblers required to pay a large fee to the government and that the government would be active in regulating where and how the casinos would operate. It is amazing to me how closely New York State has followed Richard Canfield’s prediction when it comes to the question of gaming in the state in our time.
In the second article, Canfield explained why he continued to run a gambling operation and why his patrons continued to play even though the activity was against the law. Canfield said that gambling was a natural activity for men, and they would hazard anything in a friendly manner, even if the stakes were not high, for the pure enjoyment of it. Secondly he claimed that ninety-five percent of the population had gambled something at some time in their lives and were not willing to condemn a man who wagered his own money when they were likely to have done so themselves.
Canfield said, “…men will continue to gamble to the end of time and that all the law in the world won’t stop them.” As soon as I read the quote I knew I had the title of the book, as I can think of no better description of what the situation was like in Saratoga Springs from the 1820s through the 1950s. It truly seemed that all the law in the world would not stop the gamblers and the gangsters in Saratoga.