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American Sweepstakes

How One Small State Bucked the Church, the Feds, and the Mob to Usher in the Lottery Age

Kevin Flynn

By 1963 public lotteries—a time-honored if tarnished method of raising revenue for everything from the Roman roads to Washington’s Continental Army—had been outlawed in the United States for seventy years. The only legal gambling in America was found in Nevada, where mob involvement had at first been an open secret, and then revealed as no secret at all. In New Hampshire—a conservative, rural state with no sales tax and persistent problems with funding education—state legislator Larry Pickett had filed a bill to establish a lottery in every legislative session since 1953. To the surprise of many, it won passage a decade later and was signed into law by John King, the state’s first Democratic governor in forty years. American Sweepstakes describes how King assembled an unlikely group of supporters—including a celebrated FBI agent and the staunchly conservative publisher of the state’s leading newspaper—to establish the first state lottery in the nation, paving the way for what is today a $78 billion enterprise. Despite the remonstrations of the Catholic Church, the threat of arrest by the federal government, the strident denunciations of nearly every newspaper editorialist in the country, and the very real fear that the lottery would be co-opted by the mob, eleven thoroughbred racehorses leapt from the gate on September 12, 1964, in the first New Hampshire Sweepstakes, ushering in the lottery age in America.

E-book: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9781611688269
Pages: 272 | Size: 6.25 in. x 9.25 in.
Date Published: October 13, 2015
Imprint: 
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Flynn does a superb job of making all his characters come alive. In an entertaining way, Flynn recalls an important time in America, including the Kennedy era of the 1960s. You can bet on enjoying American Sweepstakes.

Thomas Maier

Author of Masters of Sex

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Reviews

  • Flynn weaves an engaging story of the New Hampshire Sweepstakes.

    Library Journal
  • Colorful... entertaining... Flynn chronicles it all. Like a good news writer, he gets the details without getting bogged down, taking us breezily through the first running of the Sweeps and its short history.

    Valley News
  • Well-researched... [Flynn] engages the reader with an energetically paced, well-told narrative... Flynn successfully captures the spirit of the times and interestingly tells a story that deserved to be told.

    Historical New Hampshire
  • Flynn does a superb job of making all his characters come alive. In an entertaining way, Flynn recalls an important time in America, including the Kennedy era of the 1960s. You can bet on enjoying American Sweepstakes.

    Thomas Maier
    Author of Masters of Sex

About the Author

Kevin Flynn

Kevin Flynn is a regular panelist on the Crime Writers On podcast and host of the …These Are Their Stories: The Law & Order Podcast. He also has appeared on Netflix’s You Can’t Make This Up, Bear Brook, Criminal, Reality Life, The Hollywood Outsider, The Blotter Presents, Actual Innocence, and Jeb Bartlett is My President.

Kevin is the author/co-author of five true crime books: Wicked

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