Met Mile 1913: Racing Returns to Belmont Park–Without Gambling

On May 30, 1913, Belmont Park threw open its doors for the first time in three years. Racing had been suspended in New York due to the state’s anti-gambling laws, and racing-starved patrons flocked to Belmont in what was reportedly the second-biggest crowd in the track’s history. The featured race that day was the Metropolitan Handicap, won by Whisk Broom II.

A selection of the coverage of the return of racing to New York:

Betting Regulations in the East.”  Daily Racing Form, May 30.

“It is stated that any person who attends the Belmont Park race track, where racing will be resumed tomorrow after having been suspended since 1910, may bet without fear of molestation. He will not be hampered or annoyed, but he must live within the intent as well as the letter of the law which is against bookmaking and gambling. Personal wagers, having been defined by the courts as perfectly legal, will be tolerated by club officials and county officials.  But no bookmaking will be allowed, and no person who accepts a bet will be permitted to record it.”

Deputy Sheriffs at Race Track.” New York Times, May 30

“District Attorney Charles A. Wysong of Nassau County said to-day that everything possible would be done to prevent public betting at the Belmont Park races to-morrow and the subsequent racing days…Care would also be taken to keep the neighborhood of the track free from undesirable characters who might seek a chance to operate swindling games or gambling devices.”

The Revival of Racing,” New York Times, May 31

“Horse racing is good and honorable sport, no shame should be attached to the breeding and training of thoroughbreds…The object of the Agnew-Hart bill was not to suppress racing, but to abolish the system of racetrack gambling which had brought shame and ruin to many homes, had started thousands of ignorant and weak young men on the path to perdition, and sullied the fair fame of the sport.

“…It is not true, and it never was true, that racing cannot be enjoyed without gambling…Private gambling can never be suppressed anywhere, but it will be both the duty and the pleasure of the track managers at Belmont Park, who are anxious to re-establish racing on a profitable but honorable basis, to make sure that any private betting there may be is kept private.”

Racing Begins After 3 Years,” May 31

“All eyes were turned toward the path winding out of the paddocks. Moncreif, son of the swift Cesarion, appeared, leading the parade for the first race. At sight of him and the other thoroughbreds, the eager multitude gave voice again, as if it had not shouted itself red in the face a few moments before…

“The climax to that ovation came when the band that had been playing frivolous tunes high in the grandstand boomed forth the strains of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ A racetrack crowd is famous for its alertness. It was quick to catch the significance of the song. Higher and higher mounted the shouts and cheers until the park was swept with din-waves…

“Somehow, going to the races was different yesterday, except for the crowds, and even they differed in character. The tout was absent. Something which the regulars described as refinement entered subtly into the situation…

“Perhaps for the first time in metropolitan racing history the rank and file took occasion to enjoy the environment under which they were to spend the day. Hundreds stopped along the walks leading to the stands and viewed the natural loveliness of the place.

A few in whom the old passion [for gambling] was not dead shook their heads somewhat sadly, but the great majority threw its shoulders back proudly, in recognition of the fact that it wasn’t gambling that brought it to the races.”

2 thoughts on “Met Mile 1913: Racing Returns to Belmont Park–Without Gambling

  1. THANK FOR THIS TIDBIT OF FORGOTTEN HISTORY….FASCINATING!
    WHEN DID WAGERING FINALLY BECOME LEGAL AGAIN? I ALWAYS WAGER AT BELMONT AND ALSO STOP TO ADMIRE IT’S BEAUTY…..THE IVY COVERED WALLS OF THE FACADE…ALWAYS STOP TO SMELL THE FLOWERS AS I DID JUST YESTERDAY…BEAUTIFUL ROSES IN ALL COLORS!

  2. Just discovered sudden fascination about horses and i guess racing comes with it…I want to learn more as much as i can and will be looking forward reading more post from your blog…

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