As far as the general public is concerned, the 2016 Thoroughbred horse racing season ended on Saturday afternoon in Baltimore. Nyquist, the Kentucky Derby winner, could not duplicate the same effort shown at Pimlico and thus put an end to the question that would come up. Can the possibility of having back-to-back Triple Crown winners revive interest in both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred horse racing classes? The answer to that is “no.” Often referred to as “the sport of kings”, horse racing has been in a popularity decline for decades.
Without casino betting in the tracks, there probably would be no Standardbred racing in New York. Without slots and table games, there would not be any Delaware race tracks. The fact is, life changes, and what was highly popular in 1950 is not as popular now- 66 years later. At one time, the three most popular sports in America were baseball, boxing and horse racing. Each sport has had a steady erosion of interest. For horse racing, the beginning of the end started with state lotteries. Nevada legalized gambling and people would flock to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Reno or Carson City. This did not particularly hurt horse racing, but when state sponsored gambling came along, the race tracks received heavy competition. States opened lotteries allowing bettors a chance to place a wager much closer to their homes or offices. The thought was the state would use a certain percentage of the money collected to pay off lottery winners and use the remainder to help with educational costs. Betting became very easy to do. An increase in Native American casinos eventually made track owners and horse industry people beg politicians to allow gambling in old race tracks that had survived but were decrepit from lack of money. Although there is not much interest in horse racing anymore, the races will continue thanks to casino gambling in their buildings.
By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.