Betting on horse racing has been around for hundreds of years dating back to colonial times, horse owners would put up a stake on their horse at the beginning of a race. The amount from all horse owners would make up the winner’s purse (prize money). Betting turned horseracing into a large entity in which racing associations, owners, jockeys and state governments profited from the volume of wagering. Bookmakers saw that horse racing was a profitable business and basically took over the scene after the Civil War. The faster the sport grew along with the nation, it became against the law in several states because it was considered gambling.
Pari-Mutuel betting, a French term which means “mutual stake” came about after an unsuccessful stint during the nineteenth century. It was revitalized in the 1920’s when an automatic odds calculator called a totalizator came into use. It was a machine that took money, printed betting tickets and calculated odds based on betting volume continuously. All wagers for a race are placed together in a betting pool that is divided up between the winners, the pari-mutel facility share which is termed takeout; a percentage set by state law. The more people placing wagers in the pool the bigger the payout will be. Spectators bet against each other and not against the house. Prior to this system, the Bookmakers would pay a flat fee to the racing facility that included being able to operate there and fee money.
The first year round horseracing in Florida began in the 1930’s with the inception of winter racing. In 1931, The Florida State Racing Commission was established to regulate the industry. In 1971, this Commission was dismembered and taken over by the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering in the Department of Business Regulation until 1978. The Florida Pari-Mutuel Commission was then established in 1978 under the Department of Business Regulation. This Commission approves racing days and dates and hears appeals related to the suspension or revocation of pari-mutuel licenses at pari-mutuel facilities. Pari-mutuel gambling also is used for greyhound racing and Jai Alai matches (a game similar to handball).
Greyhounds were bred to hunt by outrunning their prey and they can run 45mph within 30 feet. These dogs enjoy working with other dogs as well as being around other dogs. This part of a greyhound’s personality makes them perfect for racing. It is the sixth largest spectator sport in the world. In 1922, Florida became the “US Capital” of the sport of greyhound racing.
They begin a race by bounding out of an electronic starting gate and running after a mechanical rabbit. The greyhound who reaches the finish line is the winner.
There are fourteen greyhound tracks, three thoroughbred tracks and one harness racing track in Florida. The now extinct Hialeah Park, South Florida opened its doors in 1932. The park was glamorous and magnets for people like Al Capone, The Vanderbilt’s and The Kennedy’s. Winston Churchill once was asked to describe the track and he said it was “Extraordinary!”
Florida’s Pari-Mutuel Horseracing Tracks
Calder Race Race Course, Miami
Gulfstream Park, Hallendale is Florida’s most successful track
Pampano Park, Pampano
Tampa Bay Downs, Oldsmar
Florida’s Pari-Mutuel Greyhound Tracks
Daytona Beach Kennel Club, Daytona Beach
Derby Lane, Saint Petersburg
Ebro Greyhound Park, Ebro at Florida Panhandle
Flagler Greyhound Track, Hollywood
Jacksonville Greyhound Racing Park, Jacksonville
Jefferson County Kennel Club Monticello
Melbourne Greyhound Park Melbourne
Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Track, Bonita Springs
Orange Park Kennel Club, Jacksonville
Palm Beach Kennel Club, West Palm Beach
Pensacola Greyhound Track, Pensacola
Sanford-Orlando Kennel club, Longwood
Sarasota Kennel Club, Sarasota
Tampa Greyhound Track