Betting on horse races is a pastime that’s enjoyed by many.
Horse Race Betting
The Kentucky Derby will be run next Saturday in Louisville, Ky.,
and once again, at least for a day, virtually everyone who
doesn’t pay attention to the sport at any other time during the
year is a horse racing fan.
It also serves as a reminder that betting on horse races is a
pastime that’s enjoyed by many. In some parts of the country,
horse racing and casino-style gambling are even being combined
under the same roof in facilities known as “racinos.”
One of the great appeals of betting on horse racing is the
cerebral input that serious handicappers use to select winners.
Computer programs and the availability of advanced statistical
information makes pari-mutuel wagering a studious pursuit in
contrast to the 100 percent luck factor associated will all
casino games with the exception of blackjack and poker.
Whereas the surge in popularity of Texas Hold’em poker is
attributed in great part to the mental aspect of playing the
game, similar attributes involved with betting on horses have not
resulted in attracting new legions of fans.
Long before the popularity of casino gambling as a recreational
and leisure-time activity, before there were state-sanctioned
lotteries and Internet gambling, before college and pro-sports
dominated office-run betting pools, horse racing reigned supreme
as the entertainment of choice for people with an inclination to
place a bet.
Horse racing was covered in the media as a major sport on a daily
basis. Every newspaper had a “beat” reporter in the press box
filing stories for every edition. The results of the “Daily
Double” were printed on the front page of the afternoon news
sections. The first late morning edition was called the “turf”
edition because it had the late scratches from tracks around the
Betting on horse races on-site was legal in all states with
pari-mutuel wagering legislation, but even kids back in horse
racing’s hey-day knew that all book makers didn’t work in
binderies. Friendly neighborhood bookies could be easily accessed
at corner newsstands, tobacco shops, bars, restaurants and even
Horse racing was a fact of life in America. It enjoyed a
reputation as the nation’s No. 1 spectator sport for decades.
Racetrack grandstands in major cities were filled to overflowing
on weekends and holidays.
So what happened? Competition for America’s entertainment (and
gambling) dollar, that’s what! State lotteries, casinos, the
proliferation of motor sports, in-home entertainment outlets such
as VCRs and DVDs, the Internet and the expansion of other sports
and the duration of their seasons have all helped to push horse
racing out of the limelight it once enjoyed.
In some respects, horse racing has also been forced to play
second fiddle to sports betting. Despite the fact that wagering
on the outcome of athletic events is illegal in every state
except Nevada, newspapers everywhere are loaded with odds tables,
point spreads, injury reports and other information pertinent to
wagering on football, basketball, baseball, etc. The majority of
the newspapers’ readers are not placing their bets at the sports
books of Las Vegas but with their local bookies or on the Net.
How about pro football season? Can you imagine the number of
office pools that go on from week to week, not to mention fantasy
leagues? How about March Madness in college basketball? Most of
the biggest papers in the country devote full pages to the
playoff grid for the high-profile NCAA tournament, the majority
of which wind up taped to office walls for the betting pools.
The fact of the matter is this: Horse racing is legal in many
states, yet it is treated like a “red haired stepchild” as far as
the electronic and print media are concerned. With the noteworthy
exceptions of the Triple Crown races in the spring and the
Breeders’ Cup races in the fall, racing receives little big
league regional coverage.
Some of horse racing’s fall from public grace is the sport’s own
fault. When television coverage of the other major sports began
in earnest in the late ’40s – early ’50s, the moguls of racing
felt they would be giving their product away by exposing it for
free on the tube. Generations of young people grew up with
baseball on TV while horse racing was left to live audiences of