Gambling Woes


The Chesapeake Beach Railway Company constructed a mile-long racetrack, a grandstand to seat 2,000 spectators, and horse stables. To accommodate the racetrack goers, an elegant members-only Club House was built just a short walk away (later to be renamed The Belvedere Hotel). The Club House was to offer rest and relaxation, and for those wanting something more, high-stakes games of chance were available, including roulette, poker, and faro (a fast-paced card game). A casino was built nearby.

The racetrack was slated to open in December of 1900, but there were delays. Due to an oversight, the track was not sanctioned by the National Jockey Club, which made it an outlaw racetrack. Any jockey or horse that raced on an outlaw racetrack would be marked as taboo and bared from racing on any reputable track. The explanation for this failure may never be known, but it was a huge blow to the railway company. The first of many setbacks.

The company tried for two years to institute the gambling they had planned for, but without success. There was a strong anti-gambling sentiment growing at the turn of the century, and Otto Mears had failed to apply for the required gambling license from the Calvert County Circuit Court, believing it to be unnecessary. It turned out that the company’s charter was not as unrestricted as they had assumed.

After building lavish structures and spending an exorbitant amount of time and money, the dream of making Chesapeake Beach a gambling mecca had to be abandoned. By the end of 1902, Otto Mears and most of the original founders resigned, and in 1903 the resort’s focus shifted to a family friendly destination, with David Halliday Moffat at the helm.

“FOR A MONTE CARLO. / A Gambling House to Be Built / for the Wealthy. / Three Million Dollars Invested in a Vast Gaming Venture on Chesapeake Bay.” The Topeka Daily Capital, KS, p.5, November 7, 1900.