States With Legal Horse Betting

All of the states with legal horse betting will attest to the fact that horse racing is big business in the USA. Though the history of horse racing in the US goes back for centuries, it was towards the beginning of the 20th century that modern-day horse racing betting was established. It was in 1906 that the state of Kentucky formally legalized the pari-mutuel horse racing betting system, with New York and Maryland following shortly after. Throughout the 1900s, more states followed suit, and we now have 40 different states with defined racing jurisdictions and legal pari-mutuel betting in the USA.

In the states with legal horse betting, the horse racing industry has a profound economic impact. The Horse Racing Tracks industry market report found that on average, US horse racetracks alone clear over $3 billion in revenue annually and employ over 16,000 people. On a nationwide scale, horse enthusiasts wager roughly $11 billion per annum, with that number steadily increasing year over year. Though small, this increase shows that the horse betting industry is starting to stabilize after a period of economic uncertainty.

Before you start to bet on horse races, it is beneficial to know more about legality as it pertains to your specific state of residence. Most horseplayers have several options for horse betting, such as horse racetracks, off-track betting (OTB) locations, and/or online racebooks. There are some differences between states with legal sports betting and their support for the ponies, however, and we will give you a breakdown of what types of legal horse betting your state offers.

Preakness Stakes

Bet On The Preakness Stakes

The States That Have Horse Racing Betting

If you are a horse enthusiast, living in one of the states that have horse racing betting is ideal. In addition to online racebooks and off-track betting (OTB) venues, you also have the option of spending the day at the races. More than half of all US states have active horse racetracks, and the majority offer at least some live racing schedules for patrons to enjoy the ponies.

There may also be simulcast wagering where you can place wagers on an out-of-state horse race that’s taking place at another track. As the states with legal land-based horse betting are able to determine their own betting age requirements, you will want to check the legal horse betting age beforehand (though the age limit is almost universally 18 years old). Here is a full list of the states with land-based horse racing betting:

*There are no physical horse racing tracks in the state, but there are OTB simulcast locations that allow live horse racing betting.

**The horse racing tracks in the state are temporary, only set up at certain county fairs. There are no permanent horse tracks in the state, but OTB simulcast locations are available.

#1

Bovada Sportsbook

Provides Horse Betting To 46 States

Bovada is one of the best places to bet on horse racing as it provides several odds for all major and minor races. Whether you are looking to bet on the Triple Crown events or on smaller-scale races like the Florida Derby, there are odds available at Bovada. Unfortunately, Bovada is not available in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Nevada do not offer Bovada as a betting option for horse racing events but Bovada is readily available in the other 46 states. Bovada is one of the most used betting operations in the country for horse racing betting because of its supply of great odds.

Rating: 5 Star Rating

  • Live Betting
  • Big Bonuses
  • Easy To Use
  • Mobile Betting
  • Best Odds

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#2

BetOnline Sportsbook

Accepts Bettors From All 50 States

No matter where you are, BetOnline provides legal horse racing betting odds for all players. BetOnline provides odds for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes the three biggest races of the year. Bettors can even wager on if a single horse will get the Triple Crown and win all three. BetOnline provides odds for each horse with options to wager on exact placements as well as head-to-head finishes for a pair of thoroughbreds. No matter where you are or how you wish to play, BetOnline is one of the best options for horse racing betting fans.

Rating: 5 Star Rating

  • Reliable Banking Methods
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  • 10+ Year Track Record
  • Huge Assortment Of Odds
  • No App Mobile Betting

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#3

MyBookie Sportsbook

Make The Winning Pick With MyBookie

MyBookie has several great betting lines surrounding horse racing betting events all year long. Many betting fans cash in and win big at MyBookie betting on major events such as the Kentucky Derby. There are odds available for all horses so bettors can wager on whoever they want to win, as well as odds for horses finishing in the top 3, top 5, and top 10. Players can even pin horses against one another and wager on who will place higher and there are options for betting on horses’ exact placements. The best option for horse racing betting is at MyBookie.

Ratings: 5 Star Rating

  • Huge Player Bonuses
  • Consistent Odds
  • Easy Interface
  • Rapid Live Betting
  • Legal In Hawaii

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Are Any More States Trying To Pass Horse Betting Legislation?

Yes, there are currently two states that are flirting with legalizing horse racing betting. These are Georgia (SB 367) and South Carolina (SB 57). The prognosis for future legal horse racing betting in these states – even if there will be no live horse racing available – looks pretty good, as each bill seems to have strong bipartisan support.

No other states that ban horse racing are currently looking at legalizing the practice. However, as a general rule, states frequently try to pass horse betting legislation, as the laws around horse racing wagering often dictate the other gambling laws in the area. This is especially true now that sports wagering has been federally decriminalized with the overturn of PASPA. Many state legislators, in trying to present strategies to legalize sports betting, often attach their new bills to modified horse betting laws. Just as many states seem to be assigning sports wagering to state lottery oversight, other states appear to want their horse racing commissions to control this new amusement. As such, horse betting laws are in a constant state of flux (or potential flux).

Additionally, as the popularity of online and mobile horse betting itself increases independently of sports wagering, we expect more states to start introducing Internet-based legislation. There is also the situation in Kansas to consider. In the case of Kansas specifically, while horse racing has been shuttered in the state for years, there are current attempts to reopen the venues for sports wagering, despite no plans to actually bring the ponies back.

2021 Triple Crown Race Winners

The Triple Crown events are the biggest races in the sport every year. These consist of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Sports betting fans pace heavy action on these races every year and see major returns. It is best to get in on Triple Crown betting early, as longshot odds can lead to major returns on wins.

The Kentucky Derby ended with Medina Spirit upsetting all other horses and taking the win despite having +1200 long odds to win. The Preakness Stakes also shocked horse racing betting fans, with Rombauer winning while having +1200 underdog odds. The Triple Crown is when betting fans come out winning huge and with the Belmont Stakes coming up, now is the best time to register at online sportsbooks.

Kentucky Derby – Medina Spirit (+1200)
Preakness Stakes – Rombauer (+1200)
Belmont Stakes – Saturday, June 5, 2021

What Is Pari-mutuel Betting And How Does It Work?

Pari-mutuel betting (aka “tote” or “totalisator” in various other countries) is considered “betting amongst ourselves” as opposed to betting against the house at a sportsbook or casino. The horse odds are not set by a bookmaker and are completely reliant upon how the public bets. The more bets that are placed, the larger the prize pool will be. A racetrack will provide a morning line based upon how they predict the public will wager, but these are merely estimations rather than real odds that you will wager on. The horse track makes a certain commission off of each horse wager that is placed, while the remaining amount of the prize pool is distributed amongst the winners.

With pari-mutuel betting, the more common the bet, the smaller the payout will be for the winning wager. This is because the prize pool will be divided between a greater number of winners. Placing more complex and less common bets will yield a larger payout as the prize is split between fewer people. For example, there are going to be many more winners among the crowd who picked a favored horse to Win than there will be winners of a trifecta bet involving the exact finishing order of the top three horses.

Further, all bet types account for a proportional portion of the total prize pool, so whenever you win, the money comes only from other bettors wagering on the same bet type. Using the example above, if you pick a pony to Win, and it does, the prize money comes only from those who made single Win bets (and is further split between all winners). If you hit on a trifecta, the prize money comes from all those who placed trifecta wagers. The allure of the trifecta will attract many wagers, but a comparatively small number of people will actually win. All states with legal horse betting use this exact system to determine winners and payouts.

What To Do If You Don’t Live In A State With Land-Based Horse Betting

With the popularity of horse racing, it’s hard to believe that some states have no racetracks or OTB locations. If you happen to live in a state that does not have land-based horse betting, you still have other options for betting on the ponies. Online racebooks – operated from overseas and completely outside of state and US legal jurisdictions – deliver horse races from more than 100 tracks across the nation right to your computer screen. You can place the same wagers that you would at the betting counter at Churchill Downs! When you bet on horses online, you also get daily or weekly horse bet rebates on every wager placed. Mobile racebooks are even more convenient, bringing all the same odds, horse racetracks, bonuses, and more to the palm of your hand.

In addition, many legal offshore racebooks (which are all part of larger sportsbook/casino gaming sites) offer international horse racing action, as well, so you can virtually visit racetracks from around the world. These racebooks offer pari-mutuel wagering, but as they are not bound by US restrictions, they can also offer house odds on horse races, as well as futures and other special wager types, expanding your choices dramatically when compared against land-based horse tracks. Joining these online racebooks is legal, free, fast, and 100% secure.

States That Have Banned Online Horse Betting

There are not many states that have banned online horse racing, but there are certain states that have not legalized interstate horse wagering. Though the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA, 1978) legalizes the act of accepting horse wagers on a race occurring in another state, it is up to each state to decide if the activity is permitted.

Some states only allow residents to wager on horses at tracks and off-track betting locations within the home state. Even if you reside in one of these states, with the widespread acceptance of horse racing betting, there have never been any instances where a resident was penalized for using an online, offshore racebook. Here are the states that have yet to authorize interstate horse wagering:

Alaska Georgia Hawaii
Indiana* Maine* Minnesota*
Mississippi Missouri Nevada*
New Jersey* North Carolina Oklahoma*
South Carolina Texas* Utah

*This state has horse tracks and has legal OTB and pari-mutuel wagering, but races you can bet on are restricted to in-state events only.

Note: Washington, DC, while not a state, has its own horse racing laws. Currently, there are no horse racing tracks in DC, nor are there any simulcasting or OTB venues, and horse racing betting itself is illegal.

States With Legal Online Horse Betting

Unlike other types of betting, there are numerous states with legal online horse betting. According to data compiled from state racing commissions, online horse racing betting generates more than $700 million in revenue each year. All of the federal gambling laws specifically exclude horse racing betting because it involves pari-mutuel style wagering. For this reason, nearly every state that has legal horse betting also permits residents to bet the horses online. As long as your state has authorized interstate horse bet wagering or “advance deposit wagering”, you can join an online racebook even without land-based options. Below are all the states where online horse betting is permitted, whether or not they have their own racetracks:

Alabama Arizona Arkansas
California Colorado Connecticut
Delaware Florida Idaho
Illinois Indiana Iowa
Kansas* Kentucky Louisiana
Maryland Massachusetts Michigan
Montana Nebraska New Hampshire
New Mexico New York North Dakota
Ohio Oklahoma Oregon
Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Dakota
Tennessee Vermont* Virginia
Washington West Virginia Wisconsin*
Wyoming
*This state has no horse tracks, no simulcast betting, and no OTB locations. However, interstate horse racing betting is legal over the Internet.

Legal Horse Betting FAQs

Are online racebooks regulated and licensed?

Yes, online racebooks are licensed and regulated either in the US or at an offshore location. That said, the online horse racing sites are able to accept more US bettors and provide better horse racing odds, bonuses, and rebates than the typical US-based online racebook can. You will find that many operators have been in business for nearly three decades or more. When you join a legitimate horse betting site, you are in good hands.

Are Any More States Trying To Pass Horse Racing Legislation

In 2019, both Georgia and South Carolina Legislatures passed legislation that would legalize betting on horse racing. No other states that ban horse racing are currently facing any significant push to legalize it. However, as a general rule, states frequently try to pass horse betting legislation, as the laws around horse racing wagering often dictate the other gambling laws in the area. This is especially true now that sports wagering has been federally decriminalized with the repealing of PASPA. Many state legislators, in trying to present strategies to legalize sports betting, often attach their new bills to modified horse betting laws. Just as many states seem to be assigning sports wagering to state lottery oversight, other states appear to want their horse racing commissions to control this new amusement. As such, horse betting laws are in a constant state of flux (or potential flux).

Additionally, as the popularity of online and mobile horse betting itself increases independently of sports wagering, we expect more states to start introducing Internet-based legislation. There is also the situation in Kansas to consider. In the case of Kansas specifically, while horse racing has been shuttered in the state for years, there are current attempts to reopen the venues for sports wagering, despite no plans to actually bring the ponies back.

So is betting horses online as safe as betting on them at my local track?

Yes, betting on horses online is a completely safe option when it comes to pari-mutuel wagering. You just have to make sure that you are using a reputable racebook before joining. There certain domestic websites such as TVG and Twin Spires to do the trick, but online offshore racebooks like MyBookie and Bovada are also safe and reliable options as well. 

If I live in one state, can I bet horses in another?

Yes, you can bet on horses and races happening in any state. Most of the states with legal horse betting also offer simulcast wagering with different tracks around the nation. When you bet on horses at offshore racebooks, however, you have even more betting options, as you’ll get action from racetracks in the US, Ireland, the UK, and various other countries. No matter where you are physically, you have access to more than 100 Thoroughbred and harness racetracks whenever you use an offshore racebook.

Can I place the same wagers and get the same odds betting online as I would at the track?

Online racebooks have the same wager types that you would find at your local track. You can choose from Win, Place, or Show bets if you want to place straight wagers. Some of the exotic horse bets available include exactas, trifectas, superfectas, daily doubles, pick 3s, pick 6s, and much more. With such a variety, you’ll usually find more wager types per race online than on-site. That said, the odds are also formulated from a different pool than the ones at your local track, which means that the odds online will often be different for each horse compared to their published odds at their actual racetracks. Otherwise, the odds work exactly the same way, based on the pari-mutuel system (though house-banked odds types are also available at offshore racebooks).

Can I have more than one online racebook account?

You can have multiple online racebook accounts across different horse racing betting sites. You may find that one racebook has a wider variety of tracks, better bonuses, or higher rebates. In fact, we – along with other pro handicappers – recommend utilizing more than one account for shopping lines. Proper bankroll management is key when switching between online racebooks. That said, having more than one account at the same site is not permitted under any circumstances, and attempting to do this will result in permanent account suspension and full funds confiscation.

Has any state banned the use of mobile devices to place bets on horses?

While most of the states that have legal horse betting do not offer state-regulated mobile apps, you still have plenty of mobile racebook options. There are not any states that have specifically banned mobile horse betting, after all. In addition to being able to access your racebook from your smartphone, mobile racebooks are also compatible with tablets. Use your iPhone, iPad, or Android device to make deposits, place horse bets, claim bonuses, and more. All of the top offshore racebook platforms are compatible with iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices, just to name a few. All you really need is a modern mobile browser and an Internet connection, and you can wager on all the horse racing action you please from anywhere in the US.

If I live in a state that banned online horse betting, will I get in trouble for betting anyway?

If you reside in a state that has banned online horse betting (or, more aptly, has not yet legalized it), the chances are slim to none that you would get into any trouble for wagering on the ponies over the Internet. There has never been an instance where any bettor was arrested or even fined for betting horses online, but we still suggest that you follow the laws in your state.

Why do online racebooks offer bonuses and other perks that my local track doesn’t?
Local tracks are not able to offer bonuses because horse racing betting sites operate differently. All money generated at a local track is either going to the prize pool or being distributed to other areas as required by state law. Horse betting sites generate revenue from several streams and do not have the same tax or distribution requirements, as they operate online and are based outside of all US legal jurisdictions. It would be impossible for a local track like Santa Anita Park or Ruidoso Downs to give you a bonus on your deposit with their legal structure, which is another reason why horse enthusiasts prefer online horse racing betting. States with legal horse betting at on-site racetracks provide lots of entertainment for fans of the ponies, but if you want the most bang for your horseplaying buck, the Internet is always the way to go.
What kind of races are available to wager on at the online books?

When most people think of horse racing, they think of the Triple Crown races, which are obviously available to wager on as early as six months in advance. However, the online racebooks also offer odds on various smaller races, from all across the world, weekly championships, and trophies like the Bahrain International among others. Sometimes, they will even offer wagers on a given racetrack’s horse racing action for the day. Basically, every race you’ve ever heard of and more can be wagered on at the online racebooks.

Are There Any Horse Betting Scam Sites To Worry About?

Many online racebooks are safe to use, although there are occasionally bad actors within their number. Some online racebooks are sketchier than others, with long times taken to provide the funds you earned on the sportsbook. However, there are a bevy of well regarded online racebooks, and those are the ones we recommend. You can check out our recommendations on this page. Just be sure to read reviews before signing up for a site.