Horse race betting is one of the oldest forms of gambling in the United States. However, unlike other types of gambling, horse betting has actually been legal in most US states for a long time. Most US states offer legal horse racing betting at racetracks and off-track betting sites. Additionally, online horse betting is legal in many US states too.
When you bet on a horse race, your bet becomes part of the betting pool. Any winners will receive a cut of the entire pool. Ultimately, the prize pool is shared among all winners. This is known as pari-mutuel betting.
This guide covers all the horse betting basics and horse betting odds. We go over exactly how to bet on horses whether online or in-person. Additionally, we have lots of information about online horse betting and horse racing betting sites.
Best Horse Racing Betting Sites
Online horse betting is legal in many US states. There are a few major horse betting sites that operate in most of the USA. Below you’ll find a list of all the top horse racing betting sites in the US.
Overview in maintenance
Is Online Horse Betting Legal in the USA?
Many forms of online gambling in the US have been heavily restricted over the years. The most recent law to restrict online gambling in the US was passed in 2006. It was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Specifically, this bill was aimed at stopping poker sites, online casinos, and online sportsbooks from operating in the USA. Luckily, online horse betting was left out of this bill.
Presently, there are 30 US states which allow horse race betting online. In these states, online horse betting is done via pari-mutuel pools. This is the same method used in live horse race betting.
Fortunately, horse race betting has a long history in the USA. It’s been federally legal for decades, long before the internet came about. Consequently, online horse betting has avoided much of the regulation that’s come down on online casinos and online sportsbooks.
Every US state is allowed to make its own horse betting laws. That includes laws surrounding horse race betting online. Individual states regulate all aspects of horse racing betting. On-track betting, simulcast wagering, and off-track betting sites are all regulated on a state-by-state basis.
However, there is one common horse racing betting law in every US state. Gamblers must be at least 21 years old to bet on horses in any US state.
How to Bet on Horses Online
Horse racing betting is much different from sports betting. There are many different bets that can be placed. However, there are no “lines” like you would find at a sportsbook. All bets are pooled into a single prize pot. Ultimately, all winners get a share of the pot. This is called pari-mutuel betting.
Pari-mutuel betting is not controlled by individual horse racing betting sites. Specifically, it’s controlled by how many bets are placed. As more bets are made, individual cuts of the prize pool change.
In horse racing betting, there are three primary bet types. Gamblers can bet on one single horse, multiple horses in one race, or the outcomes of multiple races. Below you’ll find an explanation of the most common types of horse bets.
Single Horse Bets
- Win: This bet is pretty self-explanatory. You place a wager on the horse you believe will win a race.
- Place: For this bet, the horse you choose must come in second place or better for you to win the bet.
- Show: You’ll win this bet if the horse you choose comes in third place or better in a single race.
Multiple Horse Bets
- Exacta: In this bet, you choose two horses. One must finish in first, the other in second. Additionally, you need to chose the right finishing order. It is possible to “box” this bet, meaning you bet twice to cover both finishing combinations.
- Trifecta: For the Trifecta bet, you choose three horses to finish first, second, and third. You must again choose the right finishing order. Additionally, you can “box” this bet by wagering on all the six possible finishing orders. The payout for this bet is larger than the Exacta bet.
- Superfecta: For this bet, you must choose four horses. Again, you must pick the right finishing order for fourth, third, second, and first. This one is pretty tough to win. However, if you get lucky, you can get a massive payout.
Multiple Race Bets
- Pick 5/6: For these bets, you need to pick the winners of a few races at the same track on the same day. These bets will rollover to the following day if no winners are chosen. If this bet rolls over more than once, the jackpot can get pretty big. At this point, these bets start attracting lots of attention.
- Futures: Similar to sports betting, you can bet on the outcome of future horse racing events. A common horse racing futures bet is placed on the winner of the Triple Crown.
How Does Horse Betting Work Online?
Legal US horse betting sites are safe and reputable. Every single one can be accessed via web browsers on computers and mobile devices. Additionally, many horse betting sites offer their own horse racing betting apps. You might find some subtle differences between brands, but they all basically work the same way.
A horse racing betting app is a great way to place mobile horse bets. These apps are streamlined for mobile use and provide a great experience. However, you don’t need to use a horse racing betting app for mobile horse betting. Horse betting sites are also optimized for mobile devices. That means you can access them from a smartphone web browser for an equally smooth experience.
To sign up for horse betting sites, you need to provide basic personal information. Additionally, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number. This is done to verify age (must be 21+) and identity. You also need to be located in a state with legal online horse betting. Usually, horse betting sites use geolocation software to determine a player’s approximate location.
Main Website Sections
These are the main website sections found at most online horse betting sites:
- Today’s Races: This section will be shown prominently by default. It displays all the horse races occurring on the current day. You can easily scroll through and search the list for specific races. Basic information on each race will be provided. Usually, you’ll see a list of runners, the latest win, place, and show prices. If you click on a race in this list, it will be added to your bet slip.
- Bet Slip: This is a collection of all the wagers you’ve placed on a given day. It’s a helpful tool to organize your wagers and get an idea of your spending. From here, you can easily remove bets or organize them by type.
- Video Streaming: Online horse betting sites will offer live video streaming of most horse races. This lets gamblers watch their favored horses in real time. One of the largest online horse betting sites is TVG. Usually, TVG offers lots of extra race content.
More Main Website Sections
- Results Databases: Horse betting sites give gamblers lots of tools to research bets before placing them. The primary research data that’s offered gives basic stats on each horse. Some online horse betting sites also offer free data on past performances. However, this varies by site. Usually, you need to place a wager in order to access this data.
- Account Information: This is your personal account on the horse betting site. Here, you’ll find your basic info and account balance. You’ll also be able to view progress towards clearing bonuses or earning loyalty points.
- Cashier: The cashier is where you’ll go to add or withdraw funds. It will show your balance as well as the available deposit and withdrawal options.
- Bonuses & Promotions: Occasionally, online horse betting sites offer special promotions. These bonuses can give gamblers incentives for specific bets.
How to Deposit at Online Horse Betting Sites
Legal horse racing betting sites in the USA are all extremely safe and reputable. They are subject to strict regulation and are constantly checked by authorities. Consequently, it’s completely safe to make deposits at these sites.
Horse racing betting sites offer the most common online payment methods. Specifically, the most popular deposit method is a credit or debit card. Visa and MasterCard are accepted at nearly all horse betting sites. Additionally, gamblers can make deposits using prepaid debit cards like Visa gift cards.
Bank transfers are also possible on online horse betting sites. Common methods include Express Funding and Expressfund.
Wire transfers are also accepted at most horse racing betting sites. Additionally, gamblers can send in paper checks if they aren’t in a hurry. The PayNearMe method is also accepted widely at horse betting sites. This method lets you deposit physical cash via terminals at 7-Eleven stores.
Usually, PayPal is also widely accepted at online horse betting sites. However, many sites charge a fee for using PayPal. The good news is, that fee is usually small. Consequently, it’s worth the cost for the extra security that PayPal provides.
Online Horse Betting Bonuses
The biggest and best US horse racing betting sites will offer great bonuses. These bonuses can give gamblers some small free bets. Additionally, new account holders can can deposit matches up to certain amounts.
Occasionally, special limited-time promotions will appear too. Keep an eye on promo pages at horse betting sites to stay up to date. Usually, these bonuses give players more cash than welcome offers.
Most Common Online Horse Betting Bonus Offers
These are the most common online horse betting bonus offers:
- Deposit Match Bonus: This bonus is given to new account holders only. It’s an incentive to deposit some real cash. Usually, online horse racing sites will give gamblers a 100% match up to $100. That free cash can be used for bets and typically must be wagered within 30 days.
- Risk-Free First Bet: This bonus takes away the risk for a gambler’s first online horse bet. This is a common bonus at TVG, where it replaces the deposit match. If your first bet loses, then this bonus will give you all your money back on that bet.
- Special Promotions: These bonuses will vary for every online horse racing site. Some common offers include cash back on second place finishes, better odds, and race-specific deals. Usually, these bonuses pop up around major horse racing events like the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup. Frequently, online horse racing sites change these offers.
- Free Past Performances: This bonus lets you view pro-level past performance data for free. However, it’s not offered freely at every online horse racing site.
- Picks Contests: This bonus is like a contest within a contest. In addition to your own bet, you compete against other gamblers on the horse racing site you’re using.
- Loyalty Rewards: Similar to loyalty programs at casinos, online horse racing sites offer rewards for regular bettors. You will earn points based on the quantity and frequency of bets you place. Ultimately, you can exchange those points for special bonuses or free bets.
Popular Horse Racing Events in the USA
Horse races are held quite often in the USA, especially during summer months. There is a lot of variety within horse racing. First, there’s a few types of horses. Common racing events are either thoroughbred racing, quarter horse (flat) racing, or standardbred (harness) racing.
Additionally, horse racing events can be held on multiple different surfaces. The surface often plays a big part in the race. Common horse racing surfaces include dirt, turf, or other artificial surfaces. Race formats also vary from short sprints to long endurance races.
Graded races will attract the best horses from around the world. In these events, there are different levels. The highest stakes (best horses) are at the top level. Occasionally, these major events have prize pools in the millions of dollars.
Usually, online horse betting sites in the USA also accept bets on international races. Popular international horse racing events include the Epsom Derby, the Saudi Cup and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Additionally, gamblers can bet on daily races from other countries like the UK, Australia, South Africa, and many more.
Prominent US Horse Racing Events
There are lots of daily horse races in the USA. However, the most attention is always given to a few major events each year. Many of these events contribute to the standings of major contests like the Triple Crown or the Breeders’ Cup. In order to win these events, a horse must place well in three major races.
These are the biggest major horse races in the USA:
- Kentucky Derby: This is the first race each year in the Triple Crown. Usually, it’s held on the first Saturday each May at the Churchill Downs racetrack. This race is also commonly called the “Run for the Roses.” It is only open to 3-year-old horses and is run over a distance of 1.25 miles.
- Preakness Stakes: This event is the second race in the Triple Crown. It occurs two weeks after the Kentucky Derby each year. It’s held at the Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.
- Belmont Stakes: This race is the third event in the Triple Crown. It’s held three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. It occurs at the Belmont Park racetrack in New York. This event is often the biggest in the Triple Crown. This is especially true if a single horse has won both the first two events.
- Breeders’ Cup: This horse race series changes each year. It’s always held at different tracks, and always involves thoroughbreds. Usually, these races attract the world’s best horses. The largest prize purse for the event is $6 million.
Popular Horse Racing Events Outside the USA
Horse racing is very popular internationally too. These are some of the most popular races each year outside the USA:
- Epsom Derby: This event actually inspired the Kentucky Derby. It has a long history, dating back to 1780. It’s held on the first Saturday in June every year. It takes place at the Epsom Downs Racecourse which is just outside London.
- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe: This horse racing event is the most popular race in France. It occurs on the first Sunday in October each year at the Longchamp racetrack outside Paris. It’s second only to the Epsom Derby in terms of popularity.
- Dubai World Cup: This horse racing event started in 1996 in the United Arab Emirates. Despite its young age, it regularly attracts the world’s best horses. Part of the reason is that this event usually has the largest prize pool of any horse race on Earth.
- Japan Cup: This event is the largest horse race in Japan. It takes place every year on the last Sunday in November. Overall, this event is longer than 2,400 meters. It also has a large prize purse. Talent comes from around the world to race in this event.
Online Horse Betting FAQ
Which US States Allow Online Horse Betting?
In total, there are 30 US state which allow horse race betting online. Here is the list:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Is US Online Horse Betting Legal at State and Federal Levels?
Presently, yes it is. The federal government does not prohibit the practice. It’s up to every US state to decide on its own how to regulate online horse betting.
Can I Watch Horse Races Without Going to Racetracks?
Yes you can! Most online horse betting sites offer live video of racing events. One of the biggest horse racing betting sites is TVG. This site offers race broadcasts 24 hours a day.
Do US Online Horse Betting Sites Offer Virtual Horse Races?
Specifically in the USA, this is prohibited. However, you will find it in Europe. These races are basically computer simulations of real horse racing events.