Horse Race Betting

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Horse betting has been a gambling mainstay in the US for hundreds of years. These days, you can now place wagers using intuitive and user-friendly mobile sportsbooks or online horse race betting sites. Even better, most US states allow online horse race betting and many also permit sports betting. Let’s take a deeper look at the status of online horse race betting in the US and examine the three best betting sites you can use now.

The Top Online Horse Race Betting Sites In The US

There are multiple horseracing sites you can choose from with excellent wager markets and solid opening bonuses.

TVG

  • Bonus Offer: 50% deposit match bonus up to $250
  • Platforms: Desktop, iOS
  • Why We Like This App: Well-designed app, lots of betting choices, good live streaming

TVG is arguably the most well-known horse race betting site in the nation and it’s a great choice for both US and international horse race wagering. It’s the official site of the horse racing channel that you can find on TV, but the desktop site offers a great rewards program, straight and exotic bets, and a mobile-optimized app that feels slick and comfortable to navigate through.

Twin Spires

  • Bonus Offer: $200 sign up bonus
  • Platforms: iOS, Android, Desktop
  • Why We Like This App: Great odds, lots of analytics data for you to make your wager predictions

Twin Spires is the official horse race betting site of the Churchill Downs racetrack, making it one of the best in the US. It offers wagering opportunities for over 300 tracks all over the world and it has some of the best research and analytics information at your fingertips through many clickable menus. Twin Spires also provides very competitive racing odds.

BetAmerica

  • Bonus Offer: 100% deposit match bonus up to $100
  • Platforms: Desktop, iOS, Android
  • Why We Like This App: Horse and greyhound racing, good app navigation, excellent digital security 

Don’t discount BetAmerica, which offers an excellent horse race betting experience plus greyhound racing wagers. It has great digital security and provides wagers for over 400 tracks around the world. The mobile app offers a great layout and quick navigation options in its menu. Plus, it’s available for both iPhone and Android devices instead of just one or the other.

What States Offer Online Horse Race Betting?

Thanks to the built-in exception to horse race betting through the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act and the removal of the PASPA by the Supreme Court in 2018, online horse race betting is more common than ever before.

In total, over 40 states in the US allow either in person or online horse race betting. Before the removal of PASPA, the states that allowed horse race betting were largely those that already had horse racetracks and whose state revenue benefited greatly from its inclusion. As a result, states like Kentucky, New York, and California have allowed online and retail horse race betting for many years now.

Recently, states such as New Jersey and Colorado have legalized both regular sports betting and online horse race betting, provided you sign up for a legitimate and licensed mobile sportsbook.

What Types Of Bets Are Available On Online Horse Betting Sites In The US?

Horse race betting has a unique history in the US. In short, horse race betting follows a pari-mutuel system. This means that, when a bet is placed, all of the money from individual gamblers is pooled together. Then, both taxes and the house fee (also called the vigorish) are removed from the combined pool.

Rather than having odds be calculated by professional statisticians called oddsmakers, horse race betting odds are calculated based on how much money is wagered overall. Payoff odds are specifically calculated by sharing the pool total amongst all the winning bets.

During online horse race betting, there are several main bet types you can partake in.

Single Horse Wagers

Single horse bets have you place your wager on a single horse’s race results.

  • Win wagers mean you wager that your chosen horse will win the race outright
  • Place wagers mean that your horse must come in either first or second place
  • Show wagers mean your horse can come in first, second, or third place and you’ll win

Multi-Horse Wagers

Naturally, multi-horse wagers mean placing a bet on multiple horses.

  • Exacta wagers have you pick two horses. Both of your horses must finish in first and second place and in the order you predicted for you to win
  • Trifecta wagers are similar to exacta wagers but have you pick three horses instead
  • Superfecta wagers have you pick four horses. Each horse must come in the wagered place (first, second, third, or fourth) for you to win the bet

With each of these wager types, gamblers can “box” their bets, meaning they bet more than once to cover multiple finishing orders.

Multi-Race Wagers

Multi-race wagers have you place bets on the outcomes or places of horses over more than one race. Examples include:

  • Futures wagers, where you combine the outcomes of future horse races. It’s common for horse race sports bettors to place futures wagers for the outcomes of particular events or tournaments
  • Pick 5/6 wagers. With these wagers, sports bettors will pick the winner of multiple races on a particular track during the day

Exotic Bets

Exotic bets are more complex compared to straight bets. Exotic bets have you pick multiple factors, such as multiple horses or race outcomes, and try to get all elements correct before you can win. Examples include the aforementioned multi-horse bets and:

  • Pick 3 wagers, where you have to pick the first place winner of three races in a row
  • Daily Double wagers, where you place a bet on the first place finishers for two separate races
  • Combination bets, where you combine multiple bets into a single large wager with a larger pot

What Types Of Bonuses Are Available When Betting On Horse Races Online?

To get new sports bettors to try their platforms out, horse race sites and betting apps usually offer opening bonuses. Some of these bets are relatively small, but others can significantly increase your wagering power right out of the gate.

Deposit Match

Deposit match bonuses will match your initial deposit (and no other deposits, so choose your first funding wisely) with site credit. For example, a 100% deposit match bonus up to $200 will potentially let you start wagering with up to $400 of app credit. TVG offers a 50% deposit match bonus up to $250.

Risk-Free Bet

A risk-free bet promotion will cover you in the event that your first wager goes south. This is great for new players but doesn’t kick in if your first wager is successful. 

Free Bets

Free bets are quick and easy to access. They just give you some site credit for opening an account without any strings attached. However, usually need to take advantage of the extra credit within seven days or so. Twinspires, for instance, offers a flat $100 sign up bonus for new users so long as you wager at least $500 within 30 days.

For many of these bonuses, note that you’ll need to “play through” any awarded site credit one or more times before you can withdraw your winnings. In the above TVG example, you have to play through your deposit match credit at least once before you can withdraw any winnings you get from wagering that credit in a bet.

Alongside the above opening bonuses, many online horseracing apps will provide regular promotions, especially for specific races or tournaments. Promotions open up new betting pools or bonus winning opportunities if you place wagers during specific times or of specific types.

Popular US Racetracks

The US has multiple popular racetracks that have partnered with some of the above betting apps. Each partnership means the sportsbook in question gets extra advertising and branding privileges, but other apps can still offer wagers for races that take place at partnered tracks.

Santa Anita, CA

The official Santa Anita Park racetrack is one of the most famous in America. It originally opened on December 25 of 1934 and was one of the first racetracks to benefit from California’s recent legalization of pari-mutuel racing.

Santa Anita Park has a one-mile natural dirt track and a turf course. It occupies about 320 acres total and has been the site of many major horseracing competitions. It doubles as a regular event venue for celebrations and concerts in the nearby area.

Churchill Downs, KY

This famous racecourse was opened as early as 1875, named after one of the most prominent Kentucky families in the area. It was the site of the first Kentucky Derby and has also hosted the Breeders’ Cup for a whopping nine occasions. It typically holds about 170,000 people and is usually rated one of the most comfortable and well-designed racecourses in America.

Belmont Park, NY

Belmont Park in New York is a thoroughbred racecourse that opened in 1905. It’s operated by nonprofit organizations and is usually open for racing from April through July and then from September to October. It has held many famous events over its lifespan, including the Kentucky Derby and several other major meets. Its largest crowd so far has been over 120,000 people, during a race in 2004.

What Are The Most Popular Horse Racing Events Of The Year?

Due to the US’s longtime enthusiasm with horseracing, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of popular horse racing events you can wager on throughout the year. Particularly during the summer months, you’ll find hundreds of different races to bet on every day using some of the above mobile apps.

Races are typically distinguished based on the types of horses used in the races. Race types include thoroughbred racing, quarter horse racing, and standardbred racing. Horse races can take place on turf, dirt, or artificial surfaces depending on the track used.

Popular Horse Racing Events In The US

Different states in the US have different big race meetups and events. However, the most popular racing events in the US by far are the Breeders’ Cup and the so-called “Triple Crown”, which is comprised of three separate famous racing events.

  • The Breeders’ Cup is a classic collection of thoroughbred races that include massive prize pools. The best horses from around the world come each year and the largest purse usually hovers at around $6 million
  • The Triple Crown is comprised first of the Kentucky Derby: a famous horse racing event in and of itself. This usually takes place on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs
  • Next is Preakness Stakes, which is the second leg of the Triple Crown. It’s held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby in Maryland at the Pimlico Race Course
  • Last is the Belmont Stakes, which is three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. It takes place at Belmont Park in New York

Popular International Horse Racing Events

The US isn’t the only place with popular horse racing events. Fortunately, TVG and other high-quality horseracing apps do allow you to place bets on international horse racing events. Some of the most famous (and most profitable) include:

  • Dubai World Cup, which began in 1996 and is usually broadcast live on TVG. It has the biggest purse for winners out of all horse races around the world
  • Epsom Derby, which takes place at the Epsom Downs Racecourse in London. It’s a very old meetup, having started in 1870 and was actually the race that inspired the Kentucky Derby
  • Prix de l’arc de Triomphe, a French race that takes place near Paris in October every year

All three of the biggest horseracing sites mentioned earlier – TVG, Bet America, and TwinSpires – allow you to wager on the international events mentioned above.

Is Online Horse Race Betting Legal In The US?

Yes, though it’s ultimately up to the states as to whether they will allow it to take place within their borders. The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act allowed a provision for individual states to decide whether they wanted to legalize online and retail horse race betting. Therefore, states that already allowed the activity to take place largely kept things unchanged, even as online casino and poker sites were taken down.

US Horse Racing History

Horse race betting in the US had been a popular activity since the late 19th century when over 300 tracks were in operation throughout the entire country. Pari-mutuel betting was introduced in 1908 and was quickly legalized due to the revenue it brought to various states.

But all that betting had to take place at physical racetracks. Off-track betting was only legalized in 1978, which allows horseracing books to accept wagers at different locations. 2000 saw the Interstate Horseracing Act amended so that horse race wagers could be accepted via telephone or the Internet.

The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act passed in 2006, but it included an exemption for horse race betting. Only a few months later, the first US horse race betting sites came to life. 

Is It Safe To Bet On A Legal Online Horse Betting Site?

Yes, so long as the site is regulated and licensed. Different states have authoritative bodies that investigate horse betting app operators for signs of digital security and to make sure they have insurance in case any users lose their winnings illegitimately.

Fully licensed and regulated online horse betting sites are safe places to gamble thanks to their high-quality digital security and the regulation they receive 24/7. In contrast, offshore and illegal horse betting sites cannot be trusted with your money and don’t usually have good digital security.

Your money and your personal or identifying information are at risk whenever you use these illegal sites. 

How Do You Register At Online Horse Race Betting Sites In The US?

There are multiple ways in which you can register for an online horseracing site or app in the US.

Desktop Registration

Desktop sites have the easiest registration process by far. Since horse racing was legalized before sports betting, most states do not require you to visit a physical race track in person just to complete the registration process.

As a result, you can visit the desktop site of your chosen horse race betting operator and click “Register”. Then you’ll need to provide some personal information, like your address and Social Security number.

Once the site verifies your identity and age, you’ll be allowed to fund the account through a variety of deposit methods. Once funding is complete, be sure to take advantage of any opening bonus that may apply and begin betting!

iOS Device Registration

Apple makes it easy to register for a horse race betting app on any iOS device:

  • Simply type the name of the betting app in the App Store’s search bar. This will take you to a download page
  • Download the app and let it install on your device
  • Then follow the same registration process as outlined above. Provide personal information like your address and age
  • The app will automatically install geolocation software. The geolocation software will make sure you only use the app in your registered state. This prevents you from using the app in a state where horse betting is not yet legalized

Android Device Registration

If you have an Android device, you’ll need to follow a slightly more complex process to register for your horse race betting app of choice:

  • The Google Play Store doesn’t allow any gambling apps on its platform. So type in the name of your betting app into Google and visit the desktop site using your android device
  • Then find a button that says “download for Android or mobile” or something similar
  • The download should begin automatically. You may need to allow a .apk file access to your phone
  • Once the installation is complete, follow the same registration process as above. Geolocation software will also be installed

What Options Are There To Deposit and Withdraw At Online Horse Betting Sites?

The majority of horse race betting sites and apps provide a variety of deposit methods. Most people choose to use Visa or Mastercard debit and credit cards. This allows for fast and repeated funding.

Some mobile sportsbooks or horse betting sites will also let you use various prepaid debit cards, like Visa gift cards. You can alternatively connect your bank account directly to your horse race betting account, allowing for near-instantaneous funding.

PayPal and Skrill, electronic wallets, are sometimes allowed depending on the site. If you have cash, you can either fund your account at a partnered horse race track or you can visit a 7-Eleven store and find a PayNearMe terminal.


Online Horse Race Betting FAQs

Is Online Horse Race Betting Legal In The US?

Technically, yes. But it’s up to individual states to determine whether they want to offer online horse race betting within their borders. Most states do allow online horse race betting.

How Old Do I Need To Be To Bet Horses Online In The US?

You’ll need to be 21 years of age or older to place wagers in most states.

How Are Horse Racing Odds And Picks Determined In The US?

Horse race betting follows the pari-mutuel model. Payout odds are calculated based on the size of a wager’s pool and the number of participants. The larger the pool and the more participants, the greater the odds in general.

Where Can I Watch Horse Racing On Live Stream?

Most online horse racing sites and apps will let you watch various races using live stream interfaces. You can also often go to sports sites that host horse racing live streams.

Is It Legal To Bet On The Kentucky Derby Online In The US?

Yes, provided you try to place a wager in a state with legalized online horse race betting.

Is TVG Online Horse Betting Legal In The US?

Yes at the federal level. However, some states do not allow TVG or any online horse race betting.

About the Author

Amber Hoffman

Amber is the Managing Editor of Gaming Today. She writes for a variety of websites in diverse industries, including gaming and travel and is a fan of international football (not "soccer") and Gaelic sports.

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