Early 20th-Century Gaming in the Free State of Jefferson

A brief history of illegal gaming (gambling) clubs in the areas surrounding the city of New Orleans in the early twentieth century.

"Tolerating" Gambling

"Although gambling is, strictly speaking, illegal, these places are usually open for business from dusk to dawn." --New Orleans City Guide, 1938 "There was a lot of gambling; it was tolerated. I guess more than tolerated because it…

Al Kleindienst on Club Owner "Birthday" Cakes

Al Kleindienst explained that he met a Dakin Street club owner because the owner would frequent the Kleindienst bakery. Al asked the man why he was always buying so many birthday cakes, and the owner explained that "if he was informed that they…

Maps of Historic Gaming Dens

Clubs often changed owners, locations and names, but the general area and primary circle of families involved with the clubs remained largely consistent. While the gaming activity was illegal, it was largely tolerated (when not explicitly supported)…

Southport

Southport was one of the most infamous clubs in the area. It was owned by Carlos Marcello and is now a music venue called Southport Hall. It moved and changed names several times. According to Al Kleindienst, in the early 1910s Joe Hiland became one…

Club Forest

According to Al Kleindienst, after a fire in 1942 destroyed George and Rudy O'Dwyer's Original Southport Club, they "moved to the Club Forest at 407 Jefferson Highway and called it O'Dwyer's Club Forest. They operated this…

O'Dwyer's Club

According to Al Kleindienst, after selling their family's Club Forest to the Mills brothers, Al Schorling and Carlos Marcello, the O'Dwyers opened a club at 100 Jefferson Highway in 1949 called "O'Dwyer's." "It was…

Gaming Chips

Every club would produce their own gaming and roulette chips, marked with their names or an identifiable symbol. Since the closing of the clubs, these have become collector's item.