Page 32 - May2017

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I
n an early form of poker, the pot accumulated until a player was
able to open the bidding with two jacks or better. That is where the
term “jackpot” originated, and the phrase “jacks or better” has since
evolved into a mantra of sorts, often chanted at the table when two
jacks or higher are needed to win, a prayer to the gambling gods for all
the money. So perhaps it is fitting that with the recent arrival of the new
Jacks or Better Casino Boat, Galveston hit the jackpot.
Of course the Island city is no stranger to gambling, the years from
1920-1957 are known as Galveston’s Open Era, when vice reigned
supreme. Prohibition, passed via the 18
th
Amendment in 1919, was the
spark that ignited a network of underground bootlegging and rum-
running, which paired nicely with the already established Red Light
District on Postoffice Street; gambling soon followed.
Rising to the fore were two immigrant brothers from Sicily, Rose and
Salvatore “Sam” Maceo. Rose was the hard-nosed enforcer, and Sam was
the penultimate smooth-talking host who oozed charisma and charm.
The pair of entrepreneurial aces, owners of the famed Balinese Room
on the Seawall and Hollywood Dinner Club on 61
st
Street, also knew that
the success of their illicit enterprises hinged completely on Galveston’s
legitimate reputation, and they invested heavily in establishing the city as
a first-class resort town.
So successful was their strategy that residents willingly turned a blind to
the illegalities, and the Island became known affectionately as the Free
State of Galveston. It was one of the most prolific times in Galveston’s
history, an especially remarkable feat considering that the era coincided
Jacks or Better
By Kimber Fountain
Casino Boat
Sunset view
Upper deck
32 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
MAY 2017