Vote “Yes” to Horse Racing in New Jersey, 1939

Jan 26th 2012 07:30 am |

Once in a while, something interesting falls in your lap. I was going through a stack of old racing publications, the same stack that produced last week’s post, and found a brochure filed among the pages of one old magazine from 1940. The brochure was published by the ‘Horse Racing Amendment Association of New Jersey’ in support of the 1939 constitutional amendment that brought horse racing back to the state after a nearly 50 year hiatus.

It’s a fascinating document that outlines all of the reasons New Jersey citizens should vote “Yes” to the only issue on the ballot for a June 20, 1939 special election to allow pari-mutuel wagering on racing. According to the brochure, a yes vote would “reduce taxes, help business, [and] create jobs.” Among the “facts not fallacies about horse racing” from brochure were the following:

The average per capita spent on betting races was “about $3.00 per person.”

“More than 2 million” people would attend races in New Jersey.

Those who would build tracks in New Jersey would be “…representative groups of the highest type citizens of New Jersey – employing all union labor”

The sponsors of the amendment were “The highest type of citizens of New Jersey, representing finance, industry, business, labor, fraternal organizations, veterans groups and outstanding sportsmen”

Among the amendment’s most active critics were “the professional gamblers of this and surrounding States, whose illicit business would be ruined by legalized, out-in-the-open wagering under the pari-mutuel system.” [According to the New York Times, the most active critics were actually “Protestant clergymen and their congregations”]

In the brochure’s explanation of pari-mutuel betting, they claimed that bettors would receive 90 cents of every dollar bet. According to proponents of racing, it would bring in approximately 2 million dollars in tax revenue to the state that would be divided evenly among New Jersey’s counties.

Over 760,000 citizens voted in the election on June 20 and the amendment passed by over 155,000 votes. The second World War and political wrangling delayed the resumption of racing in the state until 1946 when Monmouth Park opened its doors. [Correction: Racing resumed in New Jersey in 1942 when Garden State Park opened for business. Thanks to reader ballyfager for alerting me to this error.]

Read the 1939 brochure in its entirety

Details about the final vote came from the New York Times, “Mutuels Win in New Jersey by an Overwhelming Vote,” 21 June 1939

Thanks for reading!

Filed in horse racing history,New Jersey Racing,thoroughbred racing history

3 Responses to “Vote “Yes” to Horse Racing in New Jersey, 1939”

  1. GoIrish says:

    I can pretty much guarantee both of my Grandfathers votes “YES” that day.

  2. ballyfager says:

    Didn’t Garden State Park open in 1941 or 42?

  3. Kevin says:

    ballyfager: You are right … bad oversight on my part. It’s been corrected. Thanks! Kevin