Gambling in Prison
Prisoners will bet on "anything and everything" to get a thrill, an inmate tells The Fix.
Prisons are filled with addicts of all types: For many inmates, gambling may be the most accessible and permitted way to seek a rush. Prisoners bet on everything from card games, to football on TV, to sports played within the facilities. "You can bet on anything in here," a prisoner tells The Fix. "They got tickets for football, basketball, Nascar, whatever." Football season always draws the biggest crowds. "On Saturdays and Sundays the TV rooms are packed with dudes literally fighting for spots to put their chairs," the prisoner says. "Dudes are sweating their tickets—4 picks, 10 pick teasers, straight bets, freeze outs. Mostly its a couple of stamps here and there. But some dudes bet 100's of books a weekend." Stamps are used for currency in prison and a book is twenty stamps which is valued at $6, which is a lot by prison standards. For some, gambling may be a means of securing drugs, the prisoner explains: "if you hit that 10 pick teaser you're rich, well at least prison rich and when dudes hit and are flush with cash you know they're looking for the dope man to get high." Card games, like poker (as well as spades, "tunk," twenty-one and hearts) are also hugely popular, with many prisoners playing 24/7, and only returning to their cells when mandated. But sports betting, especially football, is where the stakes are highest. The prisoner says ESPN is always playing on television, and inmates will compulsively check the bottom line for scores. "Don't get caught turning that channel either," the prisoner says. "You will get your ass beat."