The Horse Race Industry: What It Means

All together, the thoroughbred industry is horse racing exclusive of harness and quarter horse racing.

It has a capital investment estimated at $2 billion. About half of this investment is in ninety-eight racetracks, $700 million is in breeding farms, $200 million is in breeding stock, and $150 million is in horses actively racing.

In 1960, the industry employs about 50,000 people, who will take down a payroll of about $250 million; these figures do not take account of such related industries as farming, printing, publishing, food catering, totalizator machines, etc.

In 1959, some 25,000 horses participated in some 32,000 races, and the tracks paid the owners $85,068,000 in purses.

And now, racing has a mass following; its attendance in 1959 exceeded that of professional baseball by two million, automobile racing by five million and college football by 14 million.

And the sport, which was pilloried for centuries by disapproving Puritans, has attained respectability.

Years ago, U.S. racing was almost extinguished. Governor Hughes closed down racing in New York, its leading state, and for two years the sport continued only in Maryland and Kentucky, and in a minor way in Colorado, Montana, and Washington.

Racing fought uphill against forces similar to those that supported prohibition, and for a while it seemed doubtful that its wealthy, socially prominent, and politically influential friends could keep it alive.

Through the 1920s, it thrived in New York, Maryland, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, and Florida, but still had no real national following.

What saved racing was pari-mutuel betting, the arrangement which the bettors weigh their judgments against one another in a pool.

The pari-mutuels helped racing to become respectable because they got the bookmakers out and at the same time, enabled the government to get in-- for example, the machines offered a handy means for the states to meter the betting and take a cut.

Conceived in Paris in 1865, pari-mutuel was adopted by Churchill Downs at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1908 - after bookmaking there was outlawed.

It became more practical when it was mechanized in the late 1920s, and before 1933, it was in use in six states.

In the 1930s, more tax-hungry states eyed the mutuels and in one legislature after another, the need for revenue was the decisive argument of the city representatives -- who generally favored the legalizing of tracks against the rural representatives generally are against it.

New York favored legal bookmakers until 1940, when it became the twenty-fourth state to adopt mutuel betting.