Is Horse Race Betting Legal in the US?
You can bet online on horses legally in the majority of states. Three key dates stand out in the timeline – the first of them predated the internet.
The Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978:
This federal law made it legal to bet on horse races from any state, as long as the state where the race was taking place was doing so legally. There was no internet in 1978. The options available at the time involved simulcast betting. Where your state allowed this, you could bet on horses at tracks or legal OTB offices.
Amendment to the Interstate Horse Racing Act 2000:
Congress caught up with new technology in the year 2000. An amendment to the original act took away the stipulation of betting from a registered OTB office or racetrack – allowing betting from home via the internet in states which allowed this.
Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006:
This act came around in response to an explosion in the unregulated online gambling scene (mostly involving poker and casino games). It made it illegal for financial transactions to fund gambling – resulting in many sites pulling out of the US.
Fortunately for racing fans, horse racing bets got a carve-out from these laws. This means you can still deposit using credit cards and services like PayPal at the online horse race betting sites.
State Laws and Horse Racing
You’ll find a lot of variation in the state laws on horse racing. The chart in the section below shows you which states allow this, which have their own tracks, and which ban gambling on horses outright.
States with legal and regulated online betting:
|Montana||New Hampshire||New Jersey||New Mexico
|New York||North Dakota||Ohio||Oregon
|Pennsylvania||Rhode Island||South Dakota||Tennessee
States where online horse betting is strictly prohibited:
|Wisconsin||District of Columbia||
Risky Grey Market Betting Sites
In addition to the legal horse racing sites covered here, a grey market exists – with offshore betting sites allowing bets from the US. These are usually based in the Caribbean or Central America. While the bonuses might seem attractive, these sites are high-risk.
If you are ever cheated or have a dispute (for example a voided bonus or a payout that gets refused), you would have no legal recourse – and nobody to complain too. Offshore sites carry the risk that they will close, taking bettor bankrolls with them. With many good, legal options for US horse race betting fans, there is no need to risk going offshore.
Responsible Gaming and problem gambling
Horse betting sites take responsible gaming seriously. This involves helping people with gambling issues to either limit or stop their betting activity.
The first step is providing information. Self-assessment questionnaires or explanations of what problem betting looks like are used here.
Links and phone numbers for help organizations (local and national) are also provided.
Online betting sites go further than this. They provide tools which let bettors set deposit limits, bet limits or time-outs from the sites. In extreme circumstances, you can also self-exclude completely.
Here are the key organizations you can turn to: