Costello was consigliore of the Luciana crime family and in control of slot machines and bookmaking operations in the Big Apple.
But in 1934, New York Mayor Fiorella La Guardia confiscated thousands of Castello's slots, loaded them on a barge, and dumped them into the ocean. Moviegoers were treated to newsreels of Mayor La Guardia taking a sledge hammer to slot machines and pushing them off the barge into the city's ocean dump.
That put a dent in Costello's New York operation, but he quickly found a new place for the one-armed bandits. He accepted a Long proposal to put machines in Louisiana. Huey, ever generous, said he would take only ten percent of the profits.
Over the next two decades, the slot machines spread into practically every restaurant, grocery store and liquor store in the state. They were everywhere, and were making money for a lot of people.
That's why State Police Superintendent Francis Grevemberg was not always the most popular fellow when he began busting up the machines in the early 1950s. In his biography, he says that he led more than 1,000 surprise raids against gambling establishments, and that he destroyed 8,229 slot machines.
His raiders got to south Louisiana in mid-October 1953, when, according to one press account, "sledge-hammer wielding state policemen raided bars and restaurants, snatching up hundreds of slot machines and busting them into just a mess of springs and gears."
The superintendent had no way to anticipate today's casinos, and optimistically told the press after this raid that "after we have seized all of them, it will finish slot machines in Louisiana."
In a 1989 interview with the Associated Press, Grevemberg said gambling-related corruption was so pervasive in Louisiana in the 1950s that he had to keep the raids secret from local sheriffs and police chiefs and even some of his own troopers for fear they would warn the targets.
The October 1953 raids hit places in Crowley, Duson, Rayne, Breaux Bridge, Eunice, Opelousas, Mamou, and Basile.
In response, a Crowley businessman filed criminal charges against Superintendent Grevemberg for stealing his slots, and the young city judge, Edmund Reggie, signed a warrant for Grevemberg's arrest. The superintendent was in fact served with an arrest warrant, although he never was jailed.
Another Crowley businessman got a state court injunction stopping the police from breaking up his machines. He was represented by a young Crowley attorney who later showed more than a little interest in gambling. Edwin Edwards argued that the machines had to be legal since they were taxed by the state.
The whole question became moot when Earl Long was elected governor in 1956. He didn't make the machines legal, but did announce that state police would no longer "harass and intimidate" citizens with such unholy raids. Grevemberg was also a candidate in that 1956 race for governor, finishing fourth behind Uncle Earl, New Orleans Mayor deLesseps Morrison, and Frederick Preaus, a car dealer from Farmerville.
Grevemberg's crusade was the subject of a 1958 film by Universal Studios titled Damn Citizen. The role of the superintendent was played by Keith Andes, who is probably better remembered for playing Marilyn Monroe's possessive boyfriend in the 1952 film Clash By Night.
Even after he was replaced as superintendent, Grevemberg continued to speak out against illegal gambling, and was a vocal critic of gambling legal and illegal in Louisiana until his death in 2008 at the age of 94.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.