Horse Betting

Industry news, odds and racing events

Betting on horse races in the US has a rich history going back 100’s of years. You can now bet legally online on horse races in most states. Here at you’ll find guides, detailed reviews and up to date information to help you get the most from online horse racing betting sites.

With a unique mix of odds, results and news you’ll have the information you need to start betting with confidence. By taking advantage of horse racing betting site bonuses and promotions, you can get your betting bankroll off to a flying start. While the focus is on domestic racing, you can also find information on the biggest and best races from around the world here.

Why Bet Horse Races Online?

There are more reasons to bet on horses online than just the convenience. Here are three of them:

  • Odds: You’ll be able to enjoy all the bet formats from single win, place or show bets too multiple race bets like the Pick 5. If you are looking for big returns, the exacta, trifecta or superfecta bets might be right for you. These bets are based on the pari-mutuel pools, meaning you’ll get the same returns that you’d enjoy if you were betting at the tracks.
  • Bonus Offers: Online betting sites offer generous welcome deals, with free bets and matched deposit bonuses common. Look out for odds boost promotions, loyalty schemes and picks contests to further boost your betting bankroll. In addition, you’ll get extras like free ‘past performance’ reports at some books – which you’d otherwise need to have paid for.
  • Safe and Legal: The main betting sites are US based, regulated and legal to use in states which allow betting on horse races. This is a big contrast to the grey market offshore sites. While these might be happy to welcome your bets, you are putting your money at risk. Offshore sites might claim to be licensed, though if there is a dispute or non-payment, you have absolutely zero legal recourse.

Biggest US Horse Races

The racing calendar is packed with races featuring huge purses. The top-level thoroughbred races, known as ‘Grade 1’, need at least $300,000 in prizes to have a shot at joining this elite level. There are more than 100 of these each year. The races below are the biggest and best of these:

  • Kentucky Derby: Known as the ‘most exciting two minutes in sport’, this is the best-known race worldwide. This one and a quarter mile race is held on the first Saturday in May. The Kentucky Derby is known as the ‘run for the roses’, and famous for mint julep cocktails. This race is the first leg of the triple crown.
  • Preakness Stakes: This is the second leg of the triple crown. The Preakness is held 2 weeks after the Kentucky Derby, at the Pimlico racetrack in Maryland. With a history going back to 1873, this race is run over 9.5 furlongs on a dirt track. Informally, the Preakness is known as ‘race for the black-eyed Susan’s’, referring to the Maryland state flower, used to cloak the winner.
  • Breeders Cup: The classic that racing fans look forward to is the ‘Breeders Cup Classic’ which has a huge $6 million purse. This race is part of a series of big money races. Unusually, it does not have a fixed venue – rotating to different tracks each year. Held in late October or early November, this race has become known as the 4th leg of the ‘Grand Slam’ of racing. The 3 legs of the Triple Crown making up the rest.
  • Belmont Stakes: The final leg of the Triple Crown is held at the Belmont racetrack in Elmont, NY. This race takes place 5 weeks after the Kentucky Derby and 3 weeks after the Preakness stakes. The 1.5-mile race over dirt also has a flower-theme. It is known as the ‘run for the Carnations’. The Belmont racetrack is known as ‘the Championship Track’, as almost all the best horses have run there at some point.
  • Haskell Stakes: This race is an invitational, with the best horses from the Triple Crown and other high-profile races invited to compete for the $1 million+ purse. It takes place at Monmouth Park racetrack in New Jersey. The timing, in July or August of each year, puts it in between the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup. This race was named after the president and chairman of Monmouth Park, Amory L. Haskell.

Popular Races from Outside the US

Many countries have busy racing calendars. You can bet on races from the UK, Ireland, France, Dubai, Japan, South Africa and many other countries online. Below are some of the most popular and richest races in the global racing calendar.

  • Dubai World Cup: This race is the world’s richest – with a $12 million purse. It attracts the best thoroughbreds from around the world, who compete in a yearly racing festival at the Meydan Racetrack in the UAE. This is open to 3 year old’s – and is run over 2km on dirt. The racecourse is impressive, with the main grandstand a mile long.
  • Pegasus World Cup: In 2017 and 2018, the brand-new Pegasus World Cup was the world’s richest horse race. With a purse of $16 million, this race takes place at Gulfstream Park, Florida. Designed to fill the late year lull in the racing calendar – the Pegasus World Cup allows winners of the big stakes races one more race before being retired to stud. In 2019, the Pegasus lost it’s ‘richest race’ title to the Dubai World Cup.
  • Arc de Triomphe: The full name of the biggest race in the French calendar is the Prix de la Arc De Triomphe. It is run in October over 2.4kms at the Longchamp racecourse in Paris. Like the Epsom Derby, this race takes place on a turf track. It is considered to be Europe’s second most prestigious race.
  • Japan Cup: With a purse of around $5.8 million, this invitational race is among the richest in the global racing calendar. The international nature of this fixture is highlighted by the origins of the winners – coming from the US, UK, Europe and Australia, as well as Japan. The race takes place on dirt over 2.4km in November of each year.
  • Epsom Derby: This is Europe’s most prestigious race, taking place at the Epsom racecourse close to London in early June each year. The Epsom Derby was the inspiration for the Kentucky Derby, and many other big races around the world. This turf race, over 2420 meters, was first run in 1780. The Derby is considered the middle leg of the UK triple crown, along with the 2000 guineas and the St. Leger.

Horse Betting FAQ

Which states allow legal online horse betting?

You can bet from most states, here is the list of places where online horse racing bets are welcomed, based on the TVG website:

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Can horse owners bet on their own horses?

Yes, there are no restrictions on betting on your own horses in the US. Tax withholding on your wins over $5000 (or odds of 300-1 or more) will apply – you may also be able to write off losses on your own horses against your tax bill.

In some cases, betting on your own horse to lose might be considered unethical. This was highlighted in the UK, where a gentleman who regularly profited from bets on his own horses losing was banned from ownership for 3 years.

What is the biggest purse ever won in a stakes race?

The Pegasus World Cup, first run in 2017, has the record for the biggest purse for a single stakes race. This was a staggering $16 million for the 2018 event. It has since been split between two races. As a new race, the Pegasus World Cup did not initially qualify for stakes status. This was grandfathered from an existing graded race at the Gulf Stream, FL track.

What are the biggest racing events in the United States?

The Kentucky Derby is the best-known single race. This is the focal point of a 2 week-long event, which takes place in May of each year at the Churchill Downs course. This race is part of the infamous ‘Triple Crown’. The Preakness Stakes and Belmont stakes take place 2 weeks and 5 weeks after the Kentucky Derby respectively.

Another huge event is the Breeders Cup festival. This is unusual in that there is no fixed home. Instead the event rotates around venues catering to thoroughbred horse racing. In addition to the Breeders’ Cup classic, there are 12 other events with purses over $1 million.

How does horse betting work?

US horse race betting works using a pooled betting model. Wagers for each type of place are totaled. The winning tickets then divide the prize pool between them. This is known as Pari-Mutuel betting. Outside of the US, the bookmakers set their own odds, which are then adjusted depending on the amount of money bet.

When you bet online on US horse races, you are entering the same pools as bettors from OTB offices and tracks.

What are the different kinds of bets?

You can bet on individual horses – or pick the correct finishing order of up to 4 contenders. Here are the most popular bet formats:

  • Win: The easiest bet of all, if your horse wins, you get a share of the pool, if not, you get nothing.
  • Place: Here you are betting on your horse to come either first or second.
  • Show: Your selection can finish in the top 3 this time.
  • Exacta: This bet involves picking 2 horses to finish 1st and 2nd in the correct order. You can bet twice – and have them both ways around.
  • Trifecta: You pick 3 horses this time, to finish 1-2-3 in the correct order. Covering all the different orders from 3 horses would involve 6 bets.
  • Superfecta: This is a hard wager to land. You are picking 4 horses, to finish 1-2-3-4 in the right order. If they do line up, you’ll often be in for a big payout.
  • Pick 5 / 6: These bets cover different races at the same track. You pick winners for each race. If a pick bet is not claimed (which is common if the favorites don’t come in), then it will roll over to the next day.

How much money is bet on horse races each year?

Only legal bets are tracked. This means the total bet on horse races each year could be many times more than the $11.26 billion recorded for 2018.

Are there any horse betting systems that guarantees a win?

No, systems which rely on past performance data or form never win in the long run. Believing that they can win is a logical fallacy. Bookmakers would not exist, and there would be no betting possible if a winning system existed. This does not stop the creators of these systems from making a lot of money – not from the races they can allegedly predict, but from people paying money for their systems!

How do the payouts work when you bet online?

As long as you bet at a legitimate / legal betting site, withdrawing your winnings is easy. The exact mix of withdrawal options will vary depending on which book you use. These include bank transfers, PayPal (or alternative eWallets) or even a paper check.

Horse Racing Guides

#1. How to Bet Online

When you bet at online horse racing sites, you are entering the pari-mutuel pools. Bets can be on one horse, the finishing order of up to 4 horses, or across multiple races. To bet, you choose your horse, visit your bet slip and specify the bet type and wager amount. The payout is calculated by dividing the total pool of money between the winning tickets.
How to Guide

#2. Betting Apps

You can now bet on horses from your smartphone. There are two ways to access betting sites from a mobile device. Downloading an app will give you access which is fully optimized for smaller screens. You can also access the sites via your browser window. Websites automatically adjust to your screen size. Bets, video streams, form databases and bonuses are all available via horse race betting apps.
Mobile Betting Apps

#3. Types of Races

While the headlines for horse races are dominated by the likes of the Triple Crown, there are hundreds of races going on every day around the country. The main split is between harness racing and flat racing – which can either be thoroughbred or standardbred. Races are typically between 1km and 2.4km (5 to 12 furlongs). Internationally, jumps racing is also popular.
Types of Races

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:

LouisianaMarylandMassachusetts Minnesota
MontanaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew Mexico
New YorkNorth DakotaOhioOregon
PennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth DakotaTennessee
VermontVirginiaWashingtonWest Virginia

States where online horse betting is strictly prohibited:

MissouriNebraskaNevadaNorth Carolina
OklahomaSouth CarolinaTexasUtah
WisconsinDistrict 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:

Online horse betting bonuses

Hit a run of bad luck when you place horse racing wagers and you can quickly drain your bankroll.

But here’s the good news:

Most online betting sites offer a sign-up bonus to entice you to try their system. Some of the best online horse racing bonuses are available from our recommended betting platforms.

You can learn more about the offers below and on our review pages.

Remember to read the terms for each bonus so you know how they work. If you have any bonus-related questions, contact the site’s customer support department.

  • TVG bonus – Use the code FREE20 to get $20 when you sign up and up to $200 as a 100 percent match on your first deposit.
  • BetAmerica bonus – No code needed. Receive up to $100 as a 100 percent match bonus on your first deposit.
  • TwinSpires bonus – No code needed. Receive $100 as a bonus after you make $500 or more in bets on any combination of races.

Deposits and withdrawals

It’s important to understand your deposit and withdrawal options when you’re ready to make online wagers on horse races. Here’s a list of options you can find at the sites offering online wagering. Not all of these may be available on every site. To learn more about which options are available on a particular website, read our in-depth reviews.

  • Electronic transfer – This option is called many different things, but basically you transfer money electronically from your bank account to your account at the online betting site. Electronic transfer can be used for deposits and withdrawals.
  • PayPal – PayPal is an online wallet you can use to transfer money quickly and safely between your bank and merchants. It’s the main payment method used on big websites. PayPal can be used for deposits and withdrawals.
  • Check – You can mail a paper check to the betting site. This is one of the slowest ways to fund your account. Checks can be used for deposits and withdrawals.
  • Money order – A money order is used to make deposits just like a check. You can get a money order at the post office and at many retailers.
  • Bank wire – You can wire money from your bank to the betting site. This seems like the same thing as an electronic transfer, but it usually costs more and isn’t handled the same way by the banking institution. Bank wires can be used for deposits and also usually for withdrawals.
  • Credit and debit cards – Most betting sites accept deposits by credit or debit card. These often have a fee, and not all card issuers approve transactions to gambling-related websites.
  • MoneyPak – A form of prepaid money transfer available at many leading retailers, MoneyPak is usually used only for deposits.
  • PayNearMe – This is another form of money transfer used for deposits available at many retail locations.
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