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Mont Tennes and the Birth of the Race Wire. Virtually everyone who has ever been to a race track has used the Daily Racing Form, a newspaper that provides comprehensive information on horse races at tracks around the country. In this first of a three-part series, Allan May tells the rich, mob-filled history of that small newspaper - so vital to gamblers across the nation.
by Allan May
After an investigation of mobster Mont Tennes, the Illinois Crime Survey Commission reported, "If the complete life history of Mont Tennes were known in every detail, it would disclose practically all there is to know about syndicated gambling as a phase of organized crime in Chicago in the last quarter century."
Born in Chicago on Jan. 16, 1874, Jacob "Mont" Tennes was the son of German immigrants. Legend has it that one day in the late 1890s he walked into a State Street crap game and walked out with $3,800. Two days later, he was back and doubled his winnings. In 1898, Tennes then used this money to open a saloon and billiard room. His customers were the scions of the old gambler combine, the safe blowers, and confidence men.
In the first decade of the 20th century, gambling ran wide open in Chicago and was controlled by three syndicates. Mont Tennes and his two brothers, William and Edward, ran the North Side. James O’Leary (whose mother owned the cow that started the Chicago Fire) ruled the South Side, while the Loop district was under control of the infamous Michael Kenna and John J. Coughlin, better known as "Hinky Dink" and "Bath House John." Of the three, Tennes would become the dominant force.