History - Gambling

Gambling was an active part of Elkhart Lake’s history.  The state had always left enforcement of the laws to local municipalities, but often law officers looked the other way.  In Elkhart Lake, slot machines were everywhere, used in the summer and stored in the winter.  In 1908, Sigmund Bloomfield, owner of the Schwartz Hotel, was the first to be arrested for the nickel and quarter slot on his property.


By the 1920s, gambling was out in the open. In a 1928 Milwaukee Journal article it stated, “This summer resort, patronized largely by Chicago residents, is a gambler’s paradise. Never in any city, has a profusion of games of chance been operated more openly or with less regard for the anti gambling laws. Men, women and children crowd about roulette wheels, chuck a luck games, wheels of fortune crap tables and other gambling devices. They place bets as nonchalantly as residents of less exciting communities patronize a drug store soda counter.”


Gambling was held at numerous sites around the lake.  “Not anywhere – not even in Chicago is gambling more openly conducted.  Doors are thrown wide, windows are up and apparently all was taken as a matter or course. Both players and operators were so unconcerned that one did not hear it discussed.”  It was so common that some believed there was no law against it in Wisconsin.


“The sheriff was unconcerned over reports of gambling in Elkhart Lake.  It’s only about two months that goes on.  When the resorts go, Elkhart Lake is dead.”  By 1929, there were so many slot machines and other gambling devices in the county that thieves started stealing them. In August of 1930, Schwartz Hotel was raided at midnight and machines were confiscated.  The police had warrants to raid two other resorts.  When they arrived both places were dark and were not raided.  Word spread fast.


Raids on gambling continued to be a nuisance during the 30s and 40s. In 1938, the Paddock Club at the Osthoff’s resort was raided with obligatory destruction of the vile gambling devices.  As the saying goes,  “All good things must come to an end” and it finally happened in Elkhart Lake and throughout the state of Wisconsin. The state’s first anti-gambling bill was passed in 1945 and on July 4th authorities swept down on Schwartz Hotel, Sharps, The Tern and Anchor, The Funspot, and several area taverns. Yet some continued to defy the law and Pine Point was raided in 1946. They pleaded guilty and were fined $50.


Gambling in Elkhart Lake (Information taken from Looking Back . . . Recollections and Remembrances by The Centennial Book Committee April, 1994 and A Photographic History of Elkhart Lake (2002) by Peter Laun.