Ever since humans managed to shinny onto the back of a horse, riders have wanted to race. Endurance, flat-track, harness and steeplechase racing became popular in many different cultures around the world.
The first track in the United States was built in New York in 1665, and more than 300 were constructed over the next 200-plus years. In the 1890s, a wave of anti-gambling sentiment shook the horse racing establishment. Bookmaking was banned and pari-mutuel betting was adopted. That meant all bets were placed in a pool, and after the wagering entity removed a commission, the remaining pool of money was shared among winners.
Spokane’s Playfair Race Course was a modest operation compared to glamorous venues in California, Kentucky and New York. But it provided many hours of enjoyment to Spokane residents who drove under the railroad tracks off Main and Altamont. The track struggled through the 1990s, partly because of the proliferation of card rooms, bingo halls, Indian casinos and the lottery. The last race at the track was in December 2000.
– Jesse Tinsley
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