How Popular is Horse Racing in Chicago?

The Windy City has had a horse in the race for nearly two centuries. While they didn’t have sports betting bonus codes back in the day, it was still a very lucrative and exciting enterprise. So, how popular is horse racing in Chicago?

Early History

When we think of the 19th century, we often associate it with certain ideas and works of literature, like those written by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Whitman. It is, therefore, a bit surprising to imagine a place within this timeframe where many horse races took place. However, that is precisely the case.

Horse racing has been popular in Chicago since the 1830s, though one of its most famous courses didn’t appear for a century since the sport’s inception. This track is none other than Arlington International Racecourse. At the time, it was known simply as Arlington Park. What’s so great about this place, you ask? Well, for starters, it was the first track to have a public address system in 1933 and, three years later, it had a photo finish camera. The course’s pioneering in technology didn’t stop there.

Arlington was hardly the only track – by the time the course introduced the photo finish, there were 6 tracks in the Chicago area, though, to be fair, a solid number of tracks opened and closed in the meantime. Some of the old names include the Brighton Trotting Park, the Chicago Driving Park, and the Dexter Park.


Gambling has been one of America’s favorite pastimes and the illegality of it only made it more interesting and mysterious. Think about it, how many people fantasize about going to Las Vegas or Atlantic City in order to fulfill their dream and lay a few games where it’s allowed? Doing something ‘forbidden’ adds to its appeal. This is why gambling was so popular in Illinois in the 1800s. Sadly, it gave way to so many shady places and persons of interest that certain steps had to be taken in order for the money and the ethics to compromise.

This is why gambling regulation was introduced in a relatively controlled environment. You could place a bet, but only on certain things and horse racing was one of them in 1920. This not only removed the forbidden fruit part of the problem, but it also allowed for the state to get some revenue from a hobby people would partake in anyway.


Now that horse racing was legal, the public view of going to the track changed drastically. It was no longer a shady business, but a place to go and be seen and a harmless hobby, provided you treat it responsibly. The idea of going to the race track became romanticized as something done by the upper class or people with income that could support such a hobby.


In truth, horse racing struggled in the past few decades due to the fact that other sports became far more interesting to watch and bet on, especially when you consider online wagers and the availability of sporting events. Not only that but casinos also present competition to the horse racing market. This sport is still a big part of Chicago’s culture and history, but its full revival is expected to arrive sometime in the 2020s.