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Thursday, October 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Gambling on election results? You bet

UPDATED: Wed., Oct. 14, 2020

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives )
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

Gambling was illegal in cigar stores and just about everywhere else, but one form of betting was apparently not: wagers on the outcome of elections.

“Bets are being posted and placed openly in Smith’s Cigar Store, 609 W. Sprague Ave., and Thwaite’s Cigar Store, 620 W. Sprague Ave.,” the city prosecutor said.

He said he was “personally opposed to gambling and never indulge myself,” but that the way the criminal statutes were written, he could find none prohibiting betting on elections. He said that betting on baseball games was also not specifically prohibited.

Betting on elections had been a common practice for years. In previous elections, the newspapers had used the cigar store “books” as a way of gauging public sentiment.

As the 1920 election approached, Smith’s Cigar Store had already accepted nearly $5,000 in bets on the Harding-Cox presidential race.

The city prosecutor said it would take a special act of the egislature to ban election betting and pools.

Other forms of gambling were also rife in cigar stores, which had become popular gathering places for men following the abolition of saloons. The city had recently announced a crackdown on all card games conducted for money in cigar stores.

From the Whitworth College beat: The “boys’ governing board” at Whitworth College ruled that any boy caught smoking would be fined 20 cents, and every “cuss” word would cost a dime.

Making noise in the dorm during study hours would also cost the offender a dime.

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