Racing and Gaming in Saratoga Springs

A Community Devoted to the Sport of Racing

Racing Horses Saratoga Springs boasts the oldest horse racing track in continuous operation in the United States.

In the summer of 1863, a group of local speculators and businessmen organized four days’ worth of thoroughbred races.  They followed on the success of this venture by building a new track in 1864.  Horse owners and racing fans took notice.

A winning combination of the best horses and a renowned location was soon drawing large crowds of racing enthusiasts (who loved both watching the sport and betting on it) from across the country.

In 1901, William C. Whitney and a syndicate of fellow horse owners purchased and rebuilt the Saratoga track.  They launched a prestigious new era of racing that has endured for more than a century.

Through good years and bad, scandals and triumphs, victories and upsets, racing in Saratoga has established an unmatched tradition of thrilling sport and great competition.  During the racing season, Saratoga is still the place to be.

It Takes All Kinds

Diamond Jim Brady Turn-of-the-century Saratoga characters: Big spender “Diamond Jim” Brady and companion Lillian Russell; “Bet a Million” Gates (center) and associates; Bookie “Irish John” Cavanaugh;  and New York World reporter Nellie Bly, whose exposé branded Saratoga Springs “Our Wickedest Summer Resort.”

Gambling in Saratoga...A Profitable Pastime

Public Game Room Club House Some people have made a lot of money from gaming in Saratoga...not always the ones who placed the bets.

The credit for bringing gambling to town belongs to John H. Morrisey - prize fighter, hustler, and gentleman who established his first gaming room in Saratoga in 1861. 

Six years later, Morrisey built the Club House Casino, a classy venue for gamblers and card players, which he operated until his death in 1878.  

Another Saratoga operator, Richard Canfield, took over operation of the Casino in 1893, transforming it into a luxurious and highly profitable destination for the sporting crowd.  Canfield’s run lasted until 1908, when agitation from reform politicians and strife with business competitors led him to shut the Casino down.

Gambling came back to Saratoga Springs soon enough, in the form of bookmaking operations that flourished during the next four decades under Meyer Lansky and other prominent mob figures.

New enforcement actions resulting from U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver’s 1950 investigation into Saratoga’s “wide-open gambling and racketeering” brought another temporary halt to illegal betting on the local horses.

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"It was a lovely and gracious resort and I wished that I had more time there. It was very convenient to the town of Saratoga Springs and the Victorian street festival was a bonus. I live in an area that has mostly national retailers and it was refreshing to be able to shop in so many unique local retailers."  ”

– Eileen