The Canfield Casino's house rules

the Canfield Casion

The Canfield Casino in Congress Park.

By Mike Hare

Today it's used for weddings and big fancy parties like the annual Whitney Gala, but there was a time when The Canfield Casino would have been off limits to Mrs. Whitney.

When bare knuckle-boxer-turned-gang-member-turned-US-Congressman John Morrissey opened the casino in Saratoga's Congress park in the early 1870's, the house only had three rules. But those rules were enough to keep the place both "exclusive" and open when gambling was illegal.

Rule #1: no ladies allowed
Even the most well-heeled of women couldn't place a bet at John Morrissey's tables. It was presumed the "fairer sex" would be content in the building's dining salon, or strolling the grounds nearby.

Rule #2: cash only please
In the early days, credit was not extended to even the wealthiest gamblers. The policy didn't seem to hold people back -- hundreds of thousands of dollars got dropped at the casino.

Rule #3: no locals
This one was a little bit more flexible, but for the most part, city residents were not admitted to the casino. Local laws at times prohibited gambling, and Saratoga Springs
residents were barred to eliminate tirades by local sore losers.

So, how did the casino managed to stay open? When rich guys like Commodore Vanderbilt let it ride, village fathers may have "overlooked" a few laws in exchange for a little pocket lining.

So why isn't the place called Morrissey's Casino? After Morrissey died, the casino passed through a few owners. In the 1890's it was purchased by Richard Canfield, who bought the nearby property and created the Italian gardens in what is now Congress Park. Anti-gambling laws forced him to close the place in 1907 and he sold it all (at quite a loss) to the City of Saratoga Springs.

Mike Hare is the author of Saratoga Lives and a Spa City tour guide.


Great History, I have spent much time in the Spa City, but did not know the history behind the casino. Thanks!

You forgot to mention one LITTLE's the home of Saratoga Springs' history museum. :)
And all of that information can be learned by visiting the museum.

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