The Belmont Stakes, which started in 1867 in the Bronx, New York, will be run in Elmont, New York on the New York City, Nassau County border. It is a chance for people to go to the track, be seen and bet. At one time, the only place to bet legally on sports was at horse racing tracks around the country although the 1895 Belmont almost was canceled. Congress wanted to get rid of gambling in the United States but betting continued. There were no races in 1911 and 1912 because of Hart-Agnew New York State law that banned horse racing and gambling. Every racetrack in New York State closed. Racing would resume in 1913. That was the last time that New York lawmakers tried to shut down the horse racing industry. Thoroughbred racing would become the second or third most popular sports business in America and would have a half century run of success.
Times have changed. Baseball was the king of American sports with boxing and horse racing a distant second and third. College football was more popular than the NFL. Basketball and hockey were fringe sports. Soccer was a foreign sport. Horse racing was an everyday event not just the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont races. People could go to the track and bet legally. Horse racing had a big following but that quickly faded after the 1950s as states began lotteries and betting was made easy. The Belmont Stakes is a throwback day but with a limited but growing form of legalized sports betting around, with state lotteries, off track betting and the availability of all forms of gambling in stores along with casinos sprouting up around the country gamblers’ have choices. A portion of the horse racing industry has been saved by casino gambling at tracks. That is not going to change anytime soon.