The Evolution Of Horseracing In The US

Horseracing is one of the most entertaining spectator sports in the world. Every passing year sees a significant rise in the number of enthusiasts that hit the tracks during the racing season. Being the biggest spectator sport with legal gambling is the main draw bringing more people to see the races. As the number of spectators increase, so does the cash pouring into the parimutuel machines. Wager-less racing has been tried several times in the US, but the interest created was short-lived. Over the years, horseracing has evolved into a multi-million dollar industry, not only in the US, but also around the world.

Before World War II, betting days of $1,000,000 made news, but now even minor tracks hit that sum. On major tracks, $3,000,000 and $4,000,000 betting days attract no attention at all.

Racing started out nearly four hundred years ago as the sport of kings, but the little man has long since taken over. In America, the little fellow took over racing when the pari-mutuel machines were attuned to the common man. A Frenchman invented the machine, but the French failed to grasp the full possibilities of how machines could help the breed improve. It was only several years later that someone suggested that the machine should sell cheaper tickets and $2 should be the base unit of trading. This gave a major impetus to horse racing and the pari-mutuel betting system was adopted in several states.

Pari-mutuel betting is the absolutely fair method by which the choices of the public automatically set the odds and determine the pay-offs. Under this system a person places a bet— by purchasing at the racetrack — tickets representing the horse of the buyer's selection. Tickets are available at $2, $5, $10, $25, $50 and $100. A machine registers each ticket as it is sold. These machines show the number of tickets sold on each horse and the total sold on all the horses. One may buy as many tickets on as many horses as he wishes. He may also back a horse to finish second or third ("place" or "show").

A percentage of the whole sum bet by the public— usually set by the laws of each state—is deducted for the track (racing association) and the state after the race is decided. The remainder is at once divided properly and paid to the holders of winning tickets.

The high entertainment value and the astronomical amounts of revenue generated have made horseracing a popular sport in almost all US states. New York City has in the planning stage a super-track to handle crowds of 60,000, about double the capacity of most of today's "big-time" courses.

The racing season may differ from one state to another. While earlier, racing was restricted as a summer activity, today several states host winter races as well. Since racing has become a year round phenomenon in several parts of the country, its popularity has increased all the more.

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