Casino-style gambling became legal in New York last week, but the action was nothing to write to Las Vegas about.
In fact, there was no action.
When the state legislature put together the guidelines for churches and synagogues planning to hold so-called Las Vegas Night charity games, it wrote so many restrictions designed to discourage infiltration by organized crime that no one-Mafia or otherwise-has bothered to step forward for a license.
All of which means that the high-rollers and penny-ante players will have to be content with the hundreds of illegal games that go on weekly in social clubs, catering halls and even churches throughout New York. Or they can wait for elgalized commercial casinos.
The hoopla that surrounded the adoption of the new casino gambling law last year doed down to a whimper once the house rules became known.
The state rules that all gambling at the licensed Las Vegas Nights must be done with script, there must be a $10 limit on betting and a$100 limit on winnings, and that prizes-cash or merchandise-cannot be collected until the casino's 2 a.m. closing. Also, no single game is permitted to give away more than $1,000 a night.
Serious gamblers were said by the police to consider the proposed casino games "Mickey Mouse," and the churches and synagogues that would sponsor them were said to be turned off by the red tape involved.
"The regulations really called for a much tamer game than what's going on now all over the city. We haven't issued any licenses yet," said Robert J. Egan, deputy commissioner of the city's Consumer Affairs Department, which was given the task of monitoring the charity games.
Egan said about 250 city organizations had applied to the state Racing and Wagering Board for identification numbers, required in the two-phase licensing procedure. But, he said, none had bothered to push it application beyond that stage.
Only one applicant has obtained an identification number, and the earliest any games could begin is the middle of this week.
Police Lt. Joseph Harding of the central gambling unit of the Public Morals Division said, "If the law stays the same as it is, I doubt if you'll see many real gamblers interested in these games. They would be frustrated over all the restrictions."
The law allows carps, roulette, blackjack, money wheel and several popular card games, including hazard, under and over seven and beat the dealer, but does not allow the most popular game of all in the illegal casinos-poker.
The law also prohibits side betting, a mainstay of serious gamblers at the craps tables.
"To a gambler, what's a craps table without side bets?" asked Harding.
But behind the restrictions, argues Richard Corgisiero, state wagering director, is a "question of philosophy."
"The purpose was to give charitable organizations a fund-raising tool. People who come down to patronize the games should not be degenerate gamblers. People should come down with the idea of helping out the temple or the church," he said.