A big event which actually had quite an effect on Seal Beach was a September 18, 1941 gambling raid which resulted in the arrest of at least ten men and the detainment of over eighty customers. Orange County sheriff’s deputies used a sledge hammer to break into a gambling den located off the alley behind the Garden of Allah nightclub at 8th and the Coast Highway. (The Garden of Allah was one of the top glamour night club/roadhouses south of Hollywood. It didn’t draw A-list Big Bands but over the years it had some very good and respected hot jazz and Big Bands. But apparently, the bands weren’t enough entertainment for the club’s patrons.)
The Allah was opened by Vivian Laird in 1938, when she moved it a mile or so down the road from Naples where it had been a popular eatery for a few years. The Allah did good business for diners who would then seek additional entertainment at one of the town’s many gambling operations. At the time Seal Beach was often in the headlines for its fairly open gambling — there were at least six known gambling operations on Main Street. The most luxurious of all was operated by Ballard Barron, who had installed a full gambling room hidden behind a door in the top floor of the old Seal Hotel at the southwest corner of Main and Central (where Hennessey’s is currently located). Barron had his had in most of the town’s gambling and he also operated the tables on a couple of the gambling ships as well. But 1939 and 1940 were tough on him. The state came down hard on the gambling ships and succeeded in shutting them down. Then in late 1940 the Seal Hotel, Barron’s headquarters (although by now he lived in Naples), burnt down in a mysterious early morning fire. The gambling business slowed down in town and this could have been a motivating factor when Laird decided to sell some of the lots behind her restaurant to Barron in January 1941. On these lots were the garages/casinos that were busted by police on that September night.
The “casino” just behind the club had over $10,000 worth of gambling equipment (or $15,000, depending on which newspaper article you believe) inside a building dressed up to look like a long garage that could house a dozen automobiles. When deputies knocked on the “garage’s” doors and no one answered, they used a sledge hammer to break in, and proceeded to detain and take the names of the 80-plus customers, arrest the dealers, and confiscate four roulette tables, two dice tables, two blackjack tables, and miscellaneous cards and chips.
The arrested men all gave their occupations as “clerks” and all immediately furnished the $75 bail and were released but ordered to appear at Seal Beach Justice Court the following Monday to face the charges of gambling.
Eleven days later the men pled “guilty,” and received 60-day jail terms from Seal Beach Judge Fred Smith, who also suspended the jail time for two years. [LB Independent, Sept. 29, 1941]
On October 3, 1941, Orange County sheriff Jesse Elliot said he was going to destroy the $15,000 worth gambling equipment seized in the raid. We can find no more articles re: the raid or its equipment.
What may have been significant about this was this was one of the first time Seal Beach gambling figures could not count on being acquitted. Before this, Judges like Fred Smith and local juries had invariably acquitted all local figures of gambling charges.
But in 1937 mob syndicate figures Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen began to take control of the Southern California gambling rackets — often using violence to share their feelings. Not helping the gamblers’ cause was Attorney general Earl Warren’s 1939 crusade to shut down the gambling ships operating off Santa Monica and Long Beach/Seal Beach. Independent gambling operators like Ballard Barron (left), who controlled most of the gambling in Seal Beach (and also some action on the gambling ships off Seal Beach and Long Beach) saw many of their friends going to jail or even being pistol-whipped in public, and decided Las Vegas offered better opportunities. Very soon after this Barron received an offer to manage the casino at the still under-construction Last Frontier Hotel, which became the second hotel (and first big casino) to be built on what became the Las Vegas Strip. Barron took over fifteen of his dealers with him when he left Seal Beach for Vegas in 1942.
Another factor that could have come into play was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. This resulted into the entire coast strip being ordered into a “Black-Out” mode, which could have dramatically cut into any gambling revenues and given Barron another reason to vacate his previously comfortable operation in Seal Beach.
In any case, once Ballard Barron left, the field was open for other gamblers and the one who quickly became king of the hill in Seal Beach at least was former Los Angeles police detective William L. Robertson.