P. Leonard Manning and William N. Suter III both grew up in the Petworth neighborhood of upper Northwest Washington. They went to school together, had mutual friends, and had one other thing in common: Both their fathers were involved in the city's flourishing illegal numbers racket.
Today, Suter, his brother Joseph, and Manning oversee the companies and joint ventures that run the city's legal lottery games, which are expected to gross $220 million a year.
The Suters together own the majority interest in the company that manages the city's instant lottery games, while Manning is the top official with the joint venture recently awarded a contract to start a new daily numbers game.
William Suter's wife, Teresa, runs and owns majority interest in a firm that does the advertising for the instant game. Three other Suter relatives also work for the advertising firm. Manning's venture, which includes his sister and a brother, has hired Teresa Suter's company to do advertising for the upcoming numbers game as well.
These few Washington-born and -bred acquaintances and relatives, who stand outside the city's political mainstream and Mayor Marion Barry's circle of allies, have survived strong challenges to their contracts to run legalized gambling in the nation's capital from better-connected quarters.
They still face potential threats. Suter's instant-winner game contract is up for rebid later this year, and some city officials have suggested that the city government itself run the game. Manning's numbers game contract has been the subject of a bitter, long-running, legal and political fracas, and an official review is still pending.
At least for now, however, they run the city's biggest and most important new revenue producer. William Suter and Leonard Manning recognized early how lucrative the city-run lottery games could be, and their foresight and aggressiveness are expected to be rewarded with handsome profits from millions of public dollars in gaming monies.
Long before the District sold its first lottery ticket last August, Suter and Manning separately went about lining up the expertise, personnel and financial resources that ultimately helped them win the lottery contracts. They traveled around the country attending conferences on legal gambling, meeting an array of industry and state officials involved in the fast-growing legal lottery business.
At one conference in Atlantic City, Suter was introduced to Gloria Decker, then the outgoing and respected head of the successful New Jersey state lottery. Suter later hired Decker to help him manage the D.C. instant-winner lottery contract, a move that D.C. Lottery Board members said was a decisive factor in the selection of Suter's company over two competitors.
Besides signing up Decker, Suter also formed a joint venture with Scientific Games Inc., an Atlanta-based ticket-printing firm regarded as the leading company in the instant lottery field with contracts in most of the states where there are instant lotteries.
In a similar fashion, Manning put together a joint venture for the daily numbers games that included four D.C. minority-controlled firms that could provide various services, such as printing and other technical work, for the contract.
Then Manning joined up with a bigger Rhode Island-based computer firm, Gaming Systems Corp., which like Scientific Games is highly regarded in its field.
Manning had worked with lottery board Chairman Brant J. Coopersmith and board member Jerry S. Cooper on a special city commission that laid the groundwork for the coming of legalized gambling to the District.
Manning's father, Peyton Leonard (Killer) Manning Sr., and the Suter brothers' father, William Norman (Blue) Suter Jr., both have been convicted for involvement in the illegal numbers game.
"I knew them the elder Manning and Suter ," said Cooper, 62, a former Census Bureau employe. "I grew up with them. I cannot turn my back on their children because of them. As long as the children are clean."
In the black community of the old segregated Washington of the 1940s and '50s, according to those who remember, illegal numbers operators were well-known figures who were generally not viewed as hardened criminals.
Prominent figures in the numbers game were said to pay heating bills and buy Christmas presents for the poor, and to contribute to churches and charities.
"Even though they were doing something outside the law, in the black community they were Robin Hoods," said Cooper. "My father was a physician, but he didn't have the credibility in the community that the numbers bankers had."
In 1958, the elder Suter, who died of a heart attack in 1962, pleaded guilty to a numbers-related charge in U.S. District Court and was sentenced to two to eight months in prison and fined $1,000.
The younger William Suter, 38, also has a conviction for involvement in illegal numbers.
He was convicted in 1972 in U.S. District Court here of operating an illegal lottery, a felony; and maintaining a gambling establishment and possessing illegal numbers slips, both misdemeanors. Suter was fined $1,000 and placed on probation for three years.
Suter said in a recent interview that his conviction occurred years ago and should not be held against him, particularly since he has operated legitimate businesses ever since.
D.C. lottery board rules bar anyone who has been convicted of a felony within five years from bidding on a gambling contract.
The senior Manning, who got his nickname "Killer" in his youth for his dash and charm, is still alive. He was convicted and fined $150 in 1981 in D.C. Superior Court on an illegal numbers charge.
A D.C. police report on illegal gambling done several years ago said that at the time, the senior Manning, who has an arrest record for gambling charges that dates back to 1942, was one of the city's top illegal numbers operators. The authors of the report estimated he ran an operation that did $12 million a year in business.
During a recent investigation, D.C. police on June 15 searched a Northwest residence occupied by a woman who police allege runs a numbers operation "which is financed, controlled and directed by Peyton L. Manning Sr. , also known as 'Killer,' who is a well known major gambler in Washington, D.C.," according to a search warrant affidavit police filed in Superior Court. The senior Manning was not arrested or charged in connection with the search, according to the police records.
The younger Manning, 40, was arrested in 1973 on a charge of operating an illegal lottery.
Records show that charge was dismissed, and he said in an interview last week that he had never been involved in any kind of illegal gambling operation.
Manning said he did not know of his father's alleged involvement with the illegal numbers game until he read recent newpaper reports.
"Things like that are not something parents go around telling their children," he said.
Cooper said that in the past he has given the senior Manning, who is suffering from several illnesses, rides to area race tracks.
"Here's a guy who can't drive. He's had a stroke. He wants to go to the track. If there came a time I was going to Bowie race track , I certainly would take him," said Cooper, who goes to the track almost daily.
Cooper added that he virtually severed his ties with the elder Manning after learning his son would be competing for the numbers game contract, and that he also has worked and gone to the track with others who were bidding against Manning.
In the long-running controversy surrounding the board's decision to award the daily numbers contract to Manning's firm--a move that was actively fought by Barry and key members of his administration--Cooper, along with board members Coopersmith and Lillian Wiggins, bucked the mayor and consistently voted to award the contract to Manning's firm.
Barry recently announced that he would not reappoint Cooper and Wiggins, and has nominated two others persons to replace them.
In a recent interview, Suter, who has lived in the same modest townhouse for the past 18 years, said he and the two partners in his firm, called Games Production Inc. (GPI), expect to make profits of between $200,000 and $300,000 each on their contract, which expires in October.
The Suter family owns three check-cashing stores in the District, which now serve as the wholesale distribution centers for the instant-winner lottery games.
By the end of May, Suter's joint venture had received gross revenues from the contract of $7.6 million, of which $2.2 million was paid to Teresa Suter's advertising firm, called LaMancha, and another portion to Scientific Games, the Atlanta-based maker of instant-winner tickets.
Officials estimate that the city expects to make more than $20 million this year from the instant game.
Scientific Games officials, in an apparent move toward ending the company's involvement with GPI, alleged in a recent letter to Suter that GPI and LaMancha have mismanaged gambling revenues. However, Scientific Games officials have declined to provide reporters with a basis for their allegations.
Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), who oversees the lottery board and has been a critic of Suter's GPI firm, said late last week she now believes that no serious management problems will be found at GPI or LaMancha.
However, the lottery board has voted to limit sharply the percentage that will be given the Suters or any other firm that may win the contract for games beyond October. The board also is considering doing some or all of the work within the city government.
For the lucrative daily numbers contract, expected to gross a minimum of $150 million a year, Manning, who has worked as a security alarm consultant, put together Lottery Technology Enterprises, a minority partnership of four D.C.-based companies. The partnership then signed up with the Rhode Island-based Gaming Systems, which has now changed its name to G-Tech.
Manning said he met officials of Gaming Systems at one of the many gambling conferences he attended, and subsequently worked last year for the firm as a consultant.
Manning's firm plans to use Teresa Suter's advertising firm to promote the daily numbers game. Manning and Teresa Suter said this follows the practice in most other states, where instant-winner and numbers games usually are advertised by the same agency.
Unlike William Suter, Manning was competing against two other bidders with strong ties to the Barry administration.
The other firms were Columbia Gaming Inc., a joint venture represented by attorney and former D.C. Democratic chairman Robert B. Washington Jr., who has been increasingly close to the mayor; and D.C. Data Co., which included as a prime investor William B. Fitzgerald, president of Independence Federal Savings and Loan Association and another Barry confidant.
In early March, when the five-member lottery board was on the verge of awarding the numbers contract to Manning's LTE firm, Barry and his top aide, Deputy Mayor Ivanhoe Donaldson, convinced the board at the last minute to hold up its award, arguing that the board had not properly considered minority participation by the three bidders.
Critics have alleged that Barry, as mayor, wanted to assert his own control over the city's gambling operations and favored other bidders, which Barry has denied.
The board reawarded the contract to LTE in early June, and the delay cost the city an estimated $7 million.
Manning, who said his firm has incurred legal fees of more than $500,000 from bidding for the numbers contract twice and the filing of a lawsuit alleging interference by the mayor's aides, said he turned away well-connected persons as investors and concentrated on lining up experienced minority businessmen who would take an active role in the business. "It was just a shock to everybody that I could get this group together," said Manning.