Creating the perfect casino has many challenges. It is a controversial business and can easily be put into negative light. Many gambling houses in the 1800s were corrupted and shady. They were looked down on by churches, politicians, and the “upper class”… even though you were likely to find someone from all of the organizations at the Canfield Casino. But Morrissey and Canfield were very smart, and had many innovative ideas to keep their business successful.
Both men were very smart business men. Gambling was considered “wicked” and looked down on by town elders there was always talk of shutting the casino down. Knowing this both made regular charitable contributions to local charities, churches, and politicians. They would personally deliver “small” gifts (sometimes thousands of dollars cash) to leaders of establishments who may not agree with their practices, this encouraged people to look the other way and allow the casino to keep operating.
Morrissey had strict rules about women and locals in his gambling houses and Canfield followed suit with similar beliefs. Locals were not welcome in the casino to ensure there would be no “sore losers” who would then spread negative rumors about their experience gambling. Locals were actually employed by Morrissey to watch the door and not allow their fellow residents into the gambling rooms. This also kept the locals from knowing exactly what went on there. They had no proof if they ever wanted to accuse the casino of anything.
Not allowing women kept the men there longer. They were not pestered by bored family members, nor would they have someone to make them reconsider their gambling choices. The third floor of the casino had the small rooms with the beds in it that have always been in question. It is said the rooms were only used for men addicted to gambling. They could gamble all night, take a rest then go back to the tables. Seeing as Morrissey was so strict about women in his casino it would make sense that there rooms were not used for anything else.
Both men had a dress code. Men would arrive in their finest attire with top hats and walking sticks. They would be dressed in tuxedos, jackets with tails, and jewels. This dress code was very important to Canfield but he quickly saw the negative side of his patrons being dressed to the nines. Suits and jackets have very little room for money. If the men could not carry in large amount of money or tried to and were robbed, Canfield would not be able to win it from them and they would leave him earlier than he would have wanted them to. So he came up with a chip system. Before Las Vegas even existed Canfield was turning his patron’s money into chips they could stack and easily carry. I could not find a photo of the chips used originally but these are souvenir ones we now carry at the store!
Along with the chips Canfield kept ample amounts of money on premises. Many gambling houses at the time would hand an I.O.U. to a high stakes winner and they would ask them to meet them at the bank at a designated time. This gave the house an out if they didn’t have the money, the winner couldn’t go to the cops because it was illegal to gamble, and the proprietor could choose whether to show up or not. Canfield however saw great benefit in keeping one million dollars in cash in a safe in his office. If there was a big winner he personally would hand them the cash… and more times than not they would lose it all back to him immediately. Knowing they could win cash more gamblers were drawn to Canfield’s high stakes room and more money was put down on each game. With the odds in his favor Canfield felt confident his money was safe.
Canfield prided himself on more than just his gaming rooms. He added a magnificent ballroom and dining room to the casino and hired Jean Columbin, a famous French chef to whip up an incredible dining experience. It is rumored that Canfield had the fish pond next to the casino installed so diners could hand pick the fish they would have served to them. Little did they know that a pipe ran from the kitchen back to the fish pond. The fish would be dumped back in to the pond and a pre-picked fish from the icebox was cooked and served. This rumor however is not proven. There is no plumbing showing evidence of this pipe and Charlie believes that sending a fish down a pipe would have caused them harm and they would be killed after a few trips down the pipe. If he had done this it was pretty sneaky, if he had not, it is a great tale to tell still!
Saratoga is filled with so much history! There is so much more to tell about just the casino alone. This is what we learned from one hour with Charlie! There will be more blogs about the casino and other history to come! I love learning more about Saratoga Springs and sharing it with you!