?CASINOS ASSOCIATED TO STAKE ESTABLISHMENTS IN HAVANA CITY?

Text
Gallery Image


One of the resources most commonly used by those interested in evading the regulations against games of chance in Cuba was that of practicing them in premises adjoining places carrying out some sort of legal activity that involved bets and enjoyed great influx of people. This would ensure needed costumers that met their interests. And so, since colonial times the presence of numerous forbidden games was common around cock fighting arenas, pool bars, lottery parlours, etc., which set a precedent of a formula that would repeat itself during the republican period.

When the Oriental Park appeared in the late 1920’s as a big stadium prepared for horse racing in the outskirts of the city, with its corresponding stands and grandstands, of course a room equipped with gambling tables was included within its premises. At the beginning, bellow the very stands, and later in the adjoining administrative building, the Jockey Club, designed to meet all requirements in order to serve a social and recreational purpose, there was a casino that operated protected by the concession granted to the company that owned the facilities.  

Jai alai, one of the most important forms of which is pelota (it’s played by using a basket shaped racquet) was intensely practiced in Cuba since colonial times. Jai alai, that means “lively party” in Basque, was played in several important facilities throughout the country where, due to the game’s intrinsic nature of crossing high bets, there were joined gambling rooms, almost in all cases without a legal license and  surreptitiously operated under the protection of local authorities who also benefited from their utilities. The Jai-Alai Fronton, inaugurated in March 1901, known as “Palacio de los Gritos” (Palace of Shouts) and the Habana-Madrid Fronton, inaugurated in October 1922 are among the best known ones.

Although these were generally small and in many cases marginal, the same cannot be said about the history of the places housing them given the social importance they enjoyed and the anecdotal richness surrounding them. Some like the Oriental Park or the Palace of Shouts had at the time great impact in the life of the city.

As it follows, let’s see a brief summary on some aspects related to their history and development and the activities that produced them.


The Oriental Park…

It was inaugurated on January 14th 1915 at the Santa Inés estate, in Los Quemados neighbourhood, in Marianao, under a concession granted by the town hall to an American. Harry D. Brown, known as “Curly” Brown, also owned Arlington Park in Chicago. The place was known at the beginning as “Havana-American Jockey Club”.

Skill, strength, and dexterity games were operated under a five-year-license granted by the town hall to Dr. Adolfo Nuño y Steeger on May 15th 1914.

By the end of that decade, it was acquired by the firm “Urbanizadora del Parque y Playa de Marianao S.A.” that as we have mentioned in previous pages also built La Concha Resort and the Casino Nacional. At that time, during the 1920’s, it was operated by the Americans Charles Flynn and John McEntee Bowmann. McEntee knew a lot about the horse-racing business, and was also president of the Bowman-Biltmore Hotels Corp. and owner of the Sevilla Biltmore. Pictures of all these figures during their stays in Cuba can be seen in our gallery.

Halfway through the 1930’s, after an inactive period due to the economic crisis during the Machado administration, the centre became property of the Uruguayan Amletto Battisti, owner of the “Compañía Cubana-Uruguaya para el Fomento del Turismo” (Cuban-Uruguayan Company for Tourism Promotion). He was a controversial figure in the illegal business circles who has been mentioned in other pages of this section, and who also came to be president of the joined “Jockey Club”. Battisti, who had great connections in the ruling circles, didn’t waste the opportunity of boosting games of chance in his facilities.

The Oriental Park was at the time one of the favourite places of Havana’s bourgeoisie that every Sunday gathered on its stands and in its facilities, where even the presence of the President of the republic was usual.

In the 40’s, the centre gained more glory, partly due to the efforts of the lawyer Indalecio Pertierra who came to be the president of the “Compañía Operadora del Hipódromo del Oriental Park”. He and his brother together with Battisti boosted the winter seasons that managed to be among America’s most famous. La crème of Havana’s society gathered every Sunday at the Jockey Club’s stands and facilities, sometimes more interested in social activities that the races themselves. From the president to the most prominent politicians and businessmen would be seen there. Several pictures included in our gallery testify to that.

Indalecio, known as “Nene Pertierra”, in addition to own together with his brother the “Almendares” baseball team, was a congressman for the Liberal Party between 1944 and 1952, and had great influence during Fulgencio Batista’s first term and also during Grau San Martín’s administration. His other brother Efrén de Jesús owned the “Monseigneur”, one of Havana’s smartest restaurants, the Montmartre Cabaret, and also had interests in the Jai Alai Fronton located on Concordia and Lucena. These last two centres had casinos.

The races took place every afternoon, for three months every year, from December through March, the so-called Cuban “winter season”. Famous American breeders used to bring their horses to compete here in order to prepare them for the high season back home.

It is said that Lucky Luciano was seen several times there during his stay in Havana in the late 40’s, which led to his subsequent deportation. Everyone knows that Luciano was allowed in Cuba thanks to Indalecio Pertierra’s efforts. And their close relationship even propitiated the American mafia’s entrance in the business of organized gambling in Cuba. It was after that than Meyer Lansky became shareholder of the Montmartre’s casino, and according to non-confirmed sources of the small casino located in the Jockey Club building. As we have already explained, this functioned as the centre’s club house, and it was a luxurious joined premise where race coordination, business meetings, musical shows, etc. were carried out. On the top floor, there was a splendid terrace from where the races could be comfortably seen, bars, restaurants, and a gambling room, small but cosy, that remained operating almost throughout the whole republican period under the concession obtained by the company that operated the establishment since 1922.

Already in the 1950’s, with the flowering of various amusement centres downtown and the changes brought about by development in the lifestyle, this historical resort’s glory began to diminish. But it still remained as the only place in the country for regulars in horse racings.

In 1958, it was leased to the Cuban Racing Co., property of Michael Loria, who kept it running after the political change until the moment when new regulations banning all sort of gambling made it disappear.

A to the chips issued here, they are very few despite the fact that this is one of the oldest and most lasting centres in the Cuban capital. Only four rare chips, with values of 1, 5, 25, and 100 pesos and the inscription Oriental Park are in our power. Typical of the 50’s given their manufacture; we assume they were used in the small room that was below the stands. Those used in the gambling room located in the club house, where some series with no value were issued, with the typical colours, sometimes with the name Jockey Club clearly stated and others just with the image of a horse as a motif.


Jai Alai…

About Jai Alai’s history in Cuba there are several articles published at the time that allow us to know the main existing courts and part of their history and characteristics. However, nowhere have we found any reference to the games of chance undeniably practiced there. This is the logical result of the existing official regulation for the written press throughout the whole republican period that forbade mentioning or advertising this kind of activity, which was considered an incitement to gambling and was punishable by law.

In any case, even if it somehow takes us off our subject, that is to say the casinos and their chips, we will try to go through the main centres of this kind that existed in Havana.


The Jai-Alai Fronton

Known as “Palacio de los Gritos” (Palace of Shouts), it was located on the corner of Lucena and Concordia. It was inaugurated in March 1901, and it still stands. It was open with ups and downs during the republican period, being closed for example between 1910 and 1918.

By the late 50’s, it was operated by “Compañía de Sports y Fomento del Turismo S.A.” (Sports and Tourism Promotion Company Inc.), the president of which was Elicio Arguelles. There are no records of games of chance being allowed in its premises during its first period. However, later on and as a result of such prohibitions being lifted it had a small joined casino apparently operated by Efrén Pertierra.

Because the place was very central and easily accessible, known and frequented by the population with low means of support, its casino was totally destroyed by the mass of people on January 1959.


The Habana-Madrid Fronton

It was inaugurated on October 1922, on the corner of Baleascoaín and Sitios, formerly occupied by the old Recreo de Belascoaín, to practice lawn-tennis. It was an impressive brick and steel building, with 140 doors and windows and capacity for an audience of 1800 people. It soon became the country’s most popular fronton. Already halfway through the fifties, it incorporated room for cabaret shows and a casino that operated until December 31st 1958. The next day, it was totally destroyed, its equipment, furniture and fittings being burnt on the street. That nature of its games, mostly aiming at local costumers instead of tourists, made its collection of chips very large. Especially the game Monte and Dice, based on low bets and varied payments, generated many chips of low values. The meaning of the E.L.P. initials on them has never been determined.


The Summer Casino Jai-Alai.

It was located on the corner of 120 and 9th, on the Marianao Beach. It was a modern building with a fronton on the first floor, a gambling room on the second, a cabaret on the third, and a big garden with many trees on the top terrace. Despite the several references to this place found on the written press of that period, we haven’t been able to accurately determine what chips its casino used or who operated it.

A non-confirmed version attributes to this centre the series of chips showing a racquet in the centre.


The Chiqui Jai

It means “small party” in Basque, and it was located on the corner of Monte and Estévez. Although there are references to gambling in its premises, we have never found any chips attributable to the place or a reliable version of their existence.


The New Fronton

Known as Palacio de las Luces (Palace of Lights), it was located on the corner of San Carlos and Peñalver and was inaugurated on January 28th 1921. It was pretty important, but disappeared soon due to the construction of the building that currently houses the CTC (National Labour Union). Since it didn’t exist in the fifties when games of chance were allowed, apparently these didn’t exist in its premises.

In addition to the previously mentioned, there were various centres where this sport was practiced, especially in the city of Cienfuegos. We don’t have knowledge of gambling being practiced or chips being issued for any activity there.

Another centre where gambling existed was the “Havana Greyhound Kennel Club S.A” for dog racing, that existed in the late fifties on the privileged area of the beach roundabout, opposite the Habana Yacht Club building. From its collection, a metallic chip is known that we will display in spite of not knowing for sure what use it had. Another metallic chip that reads “property of the company operating the Oriental Park” is also shown at the end of the sample.

Anyway, as we stated at the beginning, sports and amusement activities involving bets were great friends with games of chance in the republican Cuba and became ideal shelter for some small casinos and gambling dens, sometimes concealed and others authorized, that due to their modest operations issued small groups of chips that are among the fewest and rarest of the Cuban collection.


Details of the sample

In addition to the corresponding chips, we will show at the end of our gallery an interesting group of images related to these establishments and the figures who played a leading role in their histories. Their list is the following:

No. -- Description -- Color

A-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.50 MD, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Red

A-02 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.00 B, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Gray

A-03 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $5.00 B, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Wine red

A-04 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $5.00 B J, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Wine red

A-05 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $10.00 MD, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Yellow

A-06 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $20.00 MD, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Red

A-07 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $25.00, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Wine red

A-08 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $25.00, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Green/violet

A-09 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $100.00, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Black/yellow

    

B-01 -- Obverse: chip value $1.00, Set “H M - Habana Madrid”. -- Blue

B-01r -- Reverse: chip value $1.00, Set “H M - Habana Madrid”. -- Azul

    

C-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 1, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Cream

C-02 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 1, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Yellow

C-03 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 1, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Red

C-04 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 1, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Blue

C-05 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 2, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Cream

C-06 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 2, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Yellow

C-07 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 2, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Red

C-09 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 3, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Cream

C-10 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value Table 3, Set “Habana Madrid Casino” imprinted in the center -- Yellow

    

D-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.40, Set “E.L.P below six stars.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Wine red

D-02 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.40, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Wine red

D-03 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.50, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Beige

D-04 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.75, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Violet

D-05 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Red

D-06 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.50, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Light blue

D-07 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $2.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Dark blue

D-08 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $3.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Purple

D-09 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $4.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Yellow

D-10 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $5.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Wine red

D-11 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $10.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Orange

D-12 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $20.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Light green

D-13 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $50.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Black

D-14 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $100.00, Set “M.D. E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Gray

    

E-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.40, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- White

E-02 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.50, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Light blue

E-03 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $0.75, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Light green

E-04 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.00, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Red

E-05 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.50, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Orange

E-06 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $2.00, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Dark blue

E-07 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $3.00, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Blue green

E-08 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $4.00, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Light brown

E-09 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $5.00, Set “E.L.P.” attributed to Habana Madrid. -- Wine red

    

G-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.00, Set “Jai-Alai Casino and image of a croupier’s rake” imprinted in the center -- Gray/black

    

H-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.00, Set “Jai-Alai Habana”. -- Red

    

I-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $1.00, Set “Oriental Park”. -- Orange

I-02 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $5.00, Set “Oriental Park”. -- Wine red

I-03 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $25.00, Set “Oriental Park”. -- Green

I-04 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip value $100.00, Set “Oriental Park”. -- Black

    

K-01 -- Obverse: chip value $5.00, Set “of the horseshoe”, attributed to Jockey Club. -- Red

K-01r -- Reverse: chip value $5.00, Set “of the horseshoe”, attributed to Jockey Club. -- Red

K-02 -- Obverse: chip value $20.00, Set “of the horseshoe”, attributed to Jockey Club. -- Purple

K-02r -- Reverse: chip value $20.00, Set “of the horseshoe”, attributed to Jockey Club. -- Purple

K-03 -- Obverse: chip value $100.00, Set “of the horseshoe”, attributed to Jockey Club. -- Yellow

K-03r -- Reverse: chip value $100.00, Set “of the horseshoe”, attributed to Jockey Club. -- Yellow

    

L-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Jockey Club”. -- Cream

L-02 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Jockey Club”. -- Yellow

L-03 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Jockey Club”. -- Red

L-04 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Jockey Club”. -- Black

L-05 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Jockey Club”. -- Blue

L-06 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Jockey Club”. -- Brown

    

M-01 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Image of a horse and a horseshoe”. -- Cream

M-02 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Image of a horse and a horseshoe”. -- Yellow

M-03 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Image of a horse and a horseshoe”. -- Red

M-04 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Image of a horse and a horseshoe”. -- Blue

M-05 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Image of a horse and a horseshoe”. -- Green

    

O-01 -- Obverse metallic token: “Propiedad de la Havana Greyhound Kennel Club S.A.”  

O-01r -- Reverse metallic token: “Propiedad de la Havana Greyhound Kennel Club S.A.”  

O-06 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Image of a greyhound”.  

O-07 -- Obverse ídem reverse: chip without value, Set “Image of a greyhound”.  

    

N-01 -- Obverse metallic token: “Propiedad Co. Operadora del Hipódromo Oriental Park”  

N-01r -- Reverse metallic token: “Propiedad Co. Operadora del Hipódromo Oriental Park”  

 --   

P-01 -- Habana Madrid Court and Casino – Propaganda in 1959 Guía Social de La Habana   

P-02 -- Habana Madrid – Propaganda by Riverón.   

P-11 -- Destruction of the Habana Madrid Casino – In the  newspaper “Avance” of January 8, 1959  

P-12 -- Destruction of a gambling house in Belascoain and Estrella streets – In the newspaper “El Crisol” of January 5, 1959  

P-13 -- Artists of the Habana Madrid – In the “Show” magazine of January 1958  

P-14 -- Employees of the Habana Madrid – In the newspaper “Diario de la Marina” of January 21, 1959  

    

Q-01 -- Destruction of the Jai-Alai Court Casino – In the newspaper “Diario de la Marina” of January 5, 1959  

Q-02 -- Jai-Alai Court – Post card  

Q-03 -- Jai-Alai game at the beginning of the century – Post card  

Q-04 -- Jai-Alai Court, Havana – Post card  

    

R-01 -- The Jockey Club. Food, dance, roulette. – Propaganda card  

R-02 -- The Wheel of Fortune at Oriental Park   

R-03 -- Oriental Park –1947-1948 season  

R-04 -- The Jockey Club at the Oriental Park, 1928  

R-05 -- Article about the Oriental Park and the Jockey Club in 1942   

R-06 -- Propaganda about the Oriental Park in the “Smart” magazine of  February 1936  

R-07 -- The Oriental Park Race Track – In the “Gente” magazine of June 7, 1953.  

R-09 -- Views of the Jockey Club – In the 1953 “Libro de Cuba”   

R-10 -- The Jockey Club and the game saloon – In the 1953 “Libro de Cuba”   

 --   

S-01 -- Indalecio “el Neno” Pertierra  in 1943 – Bust-type photo  

S-02 -- Indalecio Pertierra in 1945 – Profile photo  

S-03 -- Indalecio Pertierra – Photo   

S-04 -- Dr. Julio Pertierra at the races - Photo  

S-05 -- Indalecio Pertierra, Julio Pertierra and others in the Race Track - Photo.  

S-06  Efren Pertierra (the third brother) in the Race Track - Photo  

S-07 -- Neno Pertierra and others within a group of people at the Race Track – Photo   

S-11 -- John McEntee Bowman at the races - Photo  

S-12 -- The President of the Republic at the Jockey Club - Photo  

S-13 -- Board of Directors of the Jockey Club in 1915.  

S-14  Carlos Skarbrevick at the races - Photo   

S-17 -- View of the Race Track and the Jockey Club - Photo  

    

T-01 -- The Oriental Park at the first times – Post card  

T-02 -- The Oriental Park Race Track – “Derby Day”– Post card  

T-03 -- The Oriental Park Race Track – “At the Judge’s Stand”– Post card  

T-04 -- Oriental Park Race Track. Grandstand – Post card  

T-05 -- Race Track. Havana. Cuba – Post card  

T-06 -- Oriental Race Track. The bleachers and the Jockey Club. – Post card   

T-07 -- Jockey Club. Havana. Cuba – Post card  

T-08 -- Entrance of the Jockey Club – Post card  

T-09 -- Havana. Oriental Race Track. Bleachers – Post card  

T-10 -- The Race Track at Oriental Park. Havana. Cuba – Post card  

T-11 -- Havana. Race Track. Horse races – Post card  

T-12  Havana. Start of the horse races – Post card  

T-13 -- Oriental Race Track,Havana, Cuba – Post card  

T-14 -- Race Track. Havana. Cuba – Post card  

T-15 -- Race Track. Havana. Cuba – Post card  

T-16 -- Race Track. Havana. Cuba – Post card  

T-17  Race Track at Marianao – Post card  

T-18 -- Havana. Horse races – Post card  

    

X-01 -- Lapel pins – Jai-Alai Casino  and Oriental Park.