An Unexpected Trip to a 1950s Galveston Gambling Den

Did you know Galveston used to be the sin capital of Texas?

By T. Lindsay Baker December 21, 2015 9:44 am

My old friend Bill Newsome told me a story about his visit to a Galveston gambling den half a century ago.

In about 1952 or 1953, Bill and his wife and another couple when on a vacation trip to Galveston. At that time, it was the sin capital of Texas, famous for its gambling salons, strip-tease joints and drinking establishments. The two men went to check out a gambling place called The Rickshaw Club. They went in to ask about the club during the day when everything was quiet.

“We went inside and all there was was a cubby hole with a counter and stairs that led upstairs,” Newsome says.

They paid for temporary memberships.

“We came back that night with our wives,” Newsome says. The two couples took seats at one of the tables in the large dining room, where a waiter took orders for drinks. There was a combo playing and it was real nice inside. After taking orders for drinks the waiter came back and said, “I’ll give you a tour of the game room.”

“We went back with him,” Newsome says, “and boy, did they have a game room! There were craps and poker and roulette, they had everything back there.”

“Do you want to play?” asked the waiter.

Realizing that he’d bitten off more than he could chew, Newsome sheepishly says, “We think we’ll have our dinner and then decide what we’re going to do.”

Reflecting on his visit to The Rickshaw Club 50 years later, Newsome says, “We weren’t looking for near as much excitement as they had to offer.”

Lindsay Baker is an author and professor of history at Tarlton State University. He joins The Standard as a production of KTRL – Tarleton Public Radio.