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DOMAIN PRIVEE

DOMAIN PRIVEE. The Domain Privee was an illegal gambling casino owned by Houstonian Jake “Jakie” Freedman. Freedman was born on March 20, 1891, in Odessa, Russia. He immigrated to the United States and attained citizenship for his military service during World War I. He began his gambling career on Galveston Island, then “the gaming capital of Texas,” in partnership with Dutch Voight, Ollie Quinn, and Sam and Rose Maceo, owners of the renowned Balinese Room. Freedman ultimately became one of the leading gaming businessmen in the country.

While Freedman was working at the Rice Hotel as a bellhop, a convenient cover for gambling activities and hustling bootleg liquor, he met future Texas governor William P. Hobby. When Hobby ran for governor, Freedman organized the city bellhops for Hobby. 

From 1940 to 1951 Freedman owned the illegal casino Domain Privee. The establishment, which also served as his home, was located on the 11000 block of Main Street—today just south of Old Main Street Loop Road and just east of Craighead Drive, then an unincorporated area between Houston and Galveston. The palatial Southern Colonial-style mansion sat in a handsomely-landscaped park that was surrounded by a high fence and included stables, garages, servants’ quarters, and a heated swimming pool. Three to six watchmen patrolled the area. Only Houston's elite were allowed to patronize the casino; their young adult children were made welcome at Domain Privee and were allowed limited gambling—“just enough for excitement.” Freedman selectively admitted only the wealthy and well-behaved and kept the crowd well under fifty patrons; his security staff politely turned away others and told them that Mr. Freedman was not at home. Some of his admiring customers led Freedman to profitable oil investments.

 “Little Jakie Freedman” eventually became known as the “prince of Houston’s gambling.” He grew so wealthy that his decision not to withdraw his money from Judge James Elkins’s First National Bank, one of the state's oldest financial institutions, is credited with saving the Houston bank from collapse during the Great Depression.

Eventually, Texas authorities closed down Houston gambling and the Domain Privee. Freedman and his partners built the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1952. The Sands became the “in” place in Las Vegas and hosted the leading names in entertainment including Danny Thomas, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. 

Freedman was respected as a man of high integrity and a quality gaming operator. One acquaintance called him “the most colorful man I’d ever met.” Another described him as “the cutest little guy…. He had a Jewish accent and he was from Houston. So everything was, ‘Jou’all come to da Sands.’” 

Freedman died during heart surgery in Los Angeles on January 19, 1958, and was interred in the mausoleum at Beth Israel Cemetery in Houston on West Dallas at Lamb. He was survived by his wife Sadie and son Nathan. The abandoned Domain Privee mansion burned down in 1976.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

“Carolyn Farb: Fundraiser Extraordinaire; A conversation with Carolyn Farb and Bob Boudreaux,” Houston History 13 (2016). George Fuermann, Houston: Land of the Big Rich (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1951). History of the Sands Hotel (http://johnnysjoint.angelfire.com/SandsHotel2.html), accessed November 27, 2016. Marguerite Johnston, Houston, The Unknown City, 1836–1946 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Roberta Linn, as told to Eric Meeks, Not Now, Lord, I’ve Got Too Much to Do (Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, 2005).

Ron Bass

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Handbook of Texas Online, Ron Bass, "Domain Privee," accessed May 23, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/jgdom.

Uploaded on December 20, 2016. Modified on February 16, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.