Is Gambling a problem in Petworth?

by Prince Of Petworth June 6, 2007 at 8:31 pm 9 Comments

Gambling Man, originally uploaded by Catfunt.

Good lord, I know this is going to get me in trouble but I observe, that is what I do. Anyway, I’ve been frequenting “Bless 7 to 9 Market” on 5th and Sherman and something struck me that wasn’t related to the food and beverage selection. By the by, they continue to stock 2% milk which is fantastic. Anyway, almost every time I visit there is a customer in front of me purchasing large numbers of lottery tickets. And by large I mean over 10 bucks worth. And, I just have to say it seems crazy to me. And then I talked it over with a friend who mentioned the history of running numbers in the city. So I looked it up on Wikipedia, which said:

“The Numbers Game or Policy Racket is an illegal lottery played mostly in poor neighborhoods in U.S. cities, wherein the bettor attempts to pick three or four digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day. The gambler places his or her bet with a bookie at a tavern, or other semi-private place that acts as a betting parlor. A runner carries the money and betting slips between the betting parlors and the headquarters, called a “numbers bank” or “policy bank”. The name “policy” is from a similarity to cheap insurance, both seen as a gamble on the future. “

So I wonder if the frequent lottery playing is a legacy of running numbers in Petworth? Does anyone know if they ran numbers in Petworth back in the day? Do you think there is any connection at all?

  • Anonymous

    Numbers were common in DC in general (as in most cities). I would assume that there were numbers in Petworth. I know for a fact there were numbers games in Mt Pleasant.

  • Christina

    My grandma used to be a bit of a numbers addict. I wonder if it’s a Petworth thing, or a “relatively low-income neighborhood” thing? I mean, I’ve never heard tell of Warren Buffett popping into 7-Eleven for a handful of scratch-off games. He already knows what it means to have a buttload of money. But for people who don’t, they want to engage in the dream that they can become rich overnight. It’s kind of bad, actually — the people who are probably least able to spare $10 for that stupid stuff are the ones doing it. But, these are grown folks, so what can you do? You tell people that the odds are more likely they’ll be struck by lightning twice on the way back from the store, and they still want to play.

  • Heather

    My house on Upshur used to be a place for “running numbers”. In fact, when we ripped up the basement carpet after moving in there was some fancy (if you can call it that) black tile floor and that’s where the drinking and gambling used to take place…

  • oden

    Lotteries are popular with the working poor all around the country. In rural east Texas you often see poor folk (white and black) buying $20 or more worth of tickets. Lotteries raise a lot of money, but it would be interesting to see if there are any studies about the impact on poorer populations.

  • Evan

    Oden: there are numerous studies on the impact of state sponsored lotteries and those that patronzie them. Can’t cite anything just off the top of my head but while working on a paper in college about the economic impact of Camden Yards (Orioles’ home field in Baltimore), I recall reading that two thirds of all monies collected by the state through the scratch off lotto came from Baltimore city and Prince George’s counties. Considering the average household incomes for these areas its fairly easy to see why the lottery is called the “poor man’s tax.”

  • J. Con.

    This is exactly why lotteries are regressive taxes.

  • oden

    But, as was PoP’s original point, if there weren’t lotteries perhaps those folks would still be playing a local numbers game (run by a criminal enterprise)? It’s sort of the same argument for ending the drug war and taxing the stuff, some might argue that the government is a slightly more benevolent gang boss and you can’t really stop people from vice.

  • Anonymous


    voluntary buying a lottory ticket isn’t a regressive tax becuase you don’t have to buy a lottory ticket if you want. Tax implies that there is no way around paying the tax (like a sales tax or gas tax). While lottory tickets (particularly the scratch type variety) are bought by lower income people no one is forcing them to do it.

  • Anonymous

    j.con’s point is well taken as is “annonymous'”, it’s a tongue in cheek reference to the reality that it’s raising funds from mostly poorer folks. we know well what we’re getting into when we play. we do it because the chance is fun.

    i’m with oden, only i’d remind us that not only criminal enterprises engage in games of chance that don’t benefit the public.

    need i bring up the attempts to legislate a gambling monopoly for a private company that are run down our throats every few years?

    “oh, we’ll give you 6%… 10% uh… 15%… “

    how about 100%! state/people owned and operated. represent.



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