Green’s Dictionary of Slang

racket n.2

[SE racket, a noise, a disturbance; SAmE racket, a type of waltz]

1. an organized social event, designed to make money for the sponsor.

[US]H.C. Witwer Fighting Blood 158: I have a terrible time at Barbara Worthington’s racket. The reason is because I don’t dance a stroke!
[US](con. 1890s) H. Asbury Gangs of N.Y. 270: All gave frequent social affairs, which they called rackets, resorting to intimidation to compel merchants and other business men to buy tickets. These methods were generally adopted by the gangsters [...] and it became customary for a gangster who was widely known as a desperado and a killer to organize an association of which he was the only member, and then give as many rackets in the course of the year as the traffic would bear.
[US](con. 1900s) C.W. Willemse Behind The Green Lights 139: Picnic grounds were plentiful [...] and every Sunday were occupied by dollar beer ‘rackets’ from distant parts of the city. A ‘racket’ then meaning a gathering, not a type of criminal activity.
[US]H. Gould Fort Apache, The Bronx 90: We were gonna throw a racket for Captain Dugan but with all the different tours and all it just didn’t work out. So we set up a collection to buy him a going away present.

2. a large party.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 17 Feb. 12/3: The ceremony came off (D.V.) at the Australian Church at 8 o’clock, and the rest of the ‘racket’ at Menzies.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 124: I’m taking you to a swell racket and I don’t want you to pull any of that I seen and I done stuff.
[US]H.C. Witwer Classics in Sl. 68: When this kid found out that the Capulet racket was a mask affair, him and a couple of pals named Benvolio and Mercutio, rents costumes and eases into the house without nobody tumblin’ to who they was.
[US]H. Roth Call It Sleep (1977) 414: Throw a racket up at your joint, will ye? Give him an invite.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 32: Stokovich and Dudley had met once, at a pre-racket racket Kennedy had thrown for one of his buddies.
[US]‘Harry Brandt’ Whites 5: Another was last seen at a retirement racket down in the Ninth, so maybe you should find out if he’s in any shape to come in at all.

3. an organized dance, held in a dancehall and frequented by lower-class young people.

[US]Committee of Fourteen Social Evil in N.Y. City 55: Beside the inside dance hall with its bar, there are a number of casinos with small parks adjacent which are used by special clubs, private parties and other organizations for ‘rackets’ and ‘picnics.’.
[US]G.J. Kneeland Commercialized Prostitution in N.Y. City 68: Their halls may be rented [...] for the purpose of giving an ‘affair’ or a ‘racket,’ as a ball is sometimes called.
[US]J. Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (2001) 131: He rewarded some by permitting them to run balls, or ‘rackets’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 173/1: Racket, n. [...] 4. Any dance, party, or social function.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 61: Murphy tellsim the Raven S.A.C. is goin ta throw a racket soon.
[US] (ref. to ca. 1900) I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 67: In the slang of the day [i.e. 1900], these affairs were called rackets, blow outs, or hops.

In compounds

In phrases

on a/the racket

(Aus./US) on a spree.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 25 Dec. 7/1: [T]he lush was gin, of course, which she called ‘white velvet’ [...] ‘I always drink it when I’m on a racket’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 Aug. 14/1: But the old man Time’s been busy; he is straddled on my back, / And from being once a scorcher I am nothing but a hack; / When the team is on the racket from the pub I have to slink, / For my thirst goes out of action when it’s time to drink the drink.