The Australian Gamble explores Jack Rooklyn’s role as a thread that connects some of the best-recognized characters, and most pivotal events, in Australian criminal history. It is a story that begins overseas, with the origins of the Bally poker machine company — a scandal-prone business with a name that was fated to be forever linked with Rooklyn’s. From humble origins in Al Capone’s Chicago, Bally rode the amusement game wave to become one of the biggest players in the gaming industry worldwide … a status that made it an attractive target for takeover by America’s Italian Mafia. Run out of Cuba on the heels of Castro’s communist revolution, ‘The Families’ were looking for new opportunities to expand their gaming ambitions, both in the desert mecca Las Vegas and (more quietly) through clandestinely sinking their hooks into a financially struggling Bally.
Paul Bleakley is assistant professor of Criminal Justice at the University of New Haven. Before entering the academic world, Paul was a journalist working in both London and Sydney. He is the author of two books on crime in Australia: Under a Bad Sun (2021) and Policing Child Sexual Abuse (2022).
Introduction: A cigar-smoking enigma
Chapter 1: All the bells and whistles
Chapter 2: Rooklyn rises
Chapter 3: Family vacations
Chapter 4: Ballyhoo
Chapter 5: Chasing the American dream
Chapter 6: Reinvention
Chapter 7: Shut down the pokies
Chapter 8: Moonlight
Conclusion: Cashing out
Bleakley makes a rousing case that Oz’s Mob history can go toe-to-toe with its American counterpart. Israel “Jack” Rooklyn made his name bringing gambling machines and all their trappings to Australia through his relationship with the American company Bally. Bleakley examines the Australian Mafia scene from the vantage point of this lesser-known figure who was actually at the center of so much of the story, unraveling both Rooklyn’s personal history and the wider proliferation of organized crime in Australia during the back half of the twentieth century. There are big paydays, crooked cops, a considerable procession of Mob figures—including a few famous Americans—and even some yachting trophies along the way. The narrative thrust of The Australian Gamble is doubtless epic, traversing from Australia to Singapore to Al Capone’s Chicago, and from casinos to the halls of Parliament to, of course, courtrooms. Readers who crave the gritty historical details, much of which will be wholly new to them, will appreciate this unique offering.”
Anyone interested in how a major amusement entertainment company became the highly profitable source of millions of dollars from gambling should read The Australian Gamble. It's a unique history that will fascinate all Mafia buffs.
Paul Bleakley provides an entertaining yet informative look at organized crime in Australia. Readers will be struck by how organized crime has managed to extend its corrupt tentacles from down under to internationally and by the many connections to the American mafia. Highly recommended for crime buffs and for those interested in the impact of global crime.
Paul Bleakley’s The Australian Gamble: Organized Crime Down Under is vital in understanding the global reach of organized crime. This eye-opening book shines a fascinating light on Australia’s shadowy corners.
4/20/2023, Crime Beat: Paul Bleakely, author of The Australian Gamble, was on the Crime Beat radio show with Ron Chepesiuk.