Picking up a ticket on the 19 million that Lotto 649 was offering as a prize and knowing what the odds of my winning were, my thoughts reverted back to the '40's when gambling for personal gain, in any form, was against the law.
Back in those days one could gamble in a variety of ways such as playing the horses, try your luck on a punch board or a peg board, lottery tickets called "Royal Five-Way Action". Then who could ever forget the "Irish Hospitals' Sweepstakes" tickets. Of course all these forms of gambling were obtained "under the table" and yet in a way they were wide open to the public.
If anyone wanted to place a bet on the horses it was just a matter of dropping in on Roy "Sandy" Sandercock at "Rube's" and, after he died, Fran Gassien looked after those who loved to play the ponies.
The "Royal Five Way Action" tickets (which were shipped from Montreal) were yellow in color and cost 25 cents each and were sold during the Hockey & Baseball seasons. There were five different ways of winning with them such as matching the correct scores of games Monday thru Thurs. which would net you $100 while the winner of the correct weekly total scores picked up the Grand Prize of $1000. I remember when "Babe" Heels used to be the agent for these tickets and one day he had but five tickets left and sold four of them in Russ Lamb's Barber Shop. A fellow by the name of Harold Dickerson happened to be in the shop at the time and the guys coaxed him to buy the last one. "No, no, no" he kept insisting, until the fellows called him a cheapskate who was too miserable to part with a quarter. Well, Dickerson bought the last ticket to get the guys off his back and, yes, the following week he was a thousand dollars richer!
As for the "Sweeps Stakes" tickets I could never figure out how people weren't arrested for purchasing them. If your ticket was drawn you were assigned a horse in the "Sweeps" race and were notified by Telegraph advising you of the name of the horse you had drawn and what the odds were of him winning the race. If your horse "came in" the prize varied anywhere from a few to several thousands of dollars depending on where your horse placed in the race. First thing you knew the news media were at your door taking pictures of the winner holding up his/her winning ticket with a big smile and the reporters getting information what the winner's plans were now that they were "rich". I do not, however, recall anyone ever being arrested for being in possession of a ticket despite the publicity!
I was talking to a friend about this one day not too long ago and he said, "hell John, every lawyer, doctor, businessman and anyone else who could afford the five dollars for a ticket had one and, if you couldn't get one from Heels, you did what I did, you'd buy one from the Chief of Police who always had a few for sale; he being Irish and feeling it was for a great cause."