On October 24th, we had guest speaker Mark Davis give us a lecture on the horse racing industry in Delaware.
The modern horse racing began in the 12th century when English knights returned from the Crusades with swift Arabian horses. It was not until the mid-1600’s when British settlers brought horse racing to the new world, with the first track made in Long Island. American horse breeders and racers established the Jockey Club, that still defines standards and regulations for racing, racecourses, and breeding. Harness racing is a prevalent part of the Delaware horse industry. In 1940, the opening of the Roosevelt Raceway set the stage for the current era of harness racing, which took off after WWII. In 1945, the Delaware Harness racing Commission was established. Delaware has two tracks used annually, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. Over time, the popularity of harness and thoroughbred races went down. The decrease in public interest and aim to regain the interest of the industry the Delaware government passed a law allowing casinos to be established in the state. Casinos could only be established alongside a racetrack. With the law in place, the industry has been able to gain a steady income. Annually, the DE Harness Racing Commission issues 2,000 licenses to owners, trainers, drivers, groomers, vendors, and track employees. In 2014, the horse racing industry total contribution to Delaware economy was nearly $182 million dollars and 1500 jobs. Currently, in the U.S. there are 9.2 million horses which are used for show, racing, recreation, employees, and volunteers. The horse industry has a direct economic effect on the U.S. of $39 billion dollars annually.