On February 23, 1913, the New York Times weighed in on the recent decision by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, which upheld the November 1912 New York State Supreme Court ruling that that a man making a private bet at a racetrack was not breaking the law, nor could race track operators be held responsible for gambling taking place on the tracks under their authority.
Acknowledging that the race track directors must have felt “relieved,” the Times also cast a skeptical eye, opining that the decision would not “restore racing to its former estate.” The article recapped the court’s decision, then cautioned disapprovingly:
…It is believed that only by “bookmaking” can the racing establishments flourish. They are expensive. To pay a profit, they must not only charge $3 for each admission, but they must at this price fill their stands. It is easy enough to pack the “bleachers” at a National League baseball game by charging an admission fee of 50 cents, and this suffices for the typical American game as business. The assembling of blooded horses and their army of caretakers, the provision of stakes heavy enough to tempt owners from great distances, and the upkeep of the tracks combine to make racing far more expensive.
Of course, if the proprietors of the racing clubs were as generous and solicitous for improving the breed of horse as those who patronized the Piping Rock and United Hunts meets last Summer proved to be, they would be content to forego profits. Profits come, however, by holding out an extraordinary inducement to the public to attend in large numbers, paying high admission fees. Organized gambling, not the witnessing of noble bursts of speed, provides the necessary stimulus for attendance.
Within days, official word would come that racing would return to New York, and the Times would once again comment on the role that gambling played in what it referred to as “the sport of kings.” Next up in the 1913 series: “A momentous day in the East.”
Throughout 2013, Brooklyn Backstretch will re-visit the racing events of 1913, the year that racing returned to New York after a nearly three-year absence; click here for previous stories.
“Bets At Racing Meets.” New York Times, February 23, 1913.