Horse Racing Betting: Is it Legal in America?

December 14, 2021

Horse racing is one of the top primitive sports in American history. Known as the game of kings, it has been an integral part of the United States’ sporting scene since the early 1600s, during the colonial era.

The Newmarket course in New York was the first venue to host a horse racing meet in North America and was under the supervision of the then colonial governor of the state, Richard Nicholls.

The sport reached heightened popularity in the 1900s and became the number one spectator sport in the country. People would travel far and wide to watch horse races and place bets. Although this ancient sport is beginning to plummet in popularity, appeal, and reception, a considerable percentage of Americans still love to track the game’s activities, attend sporting events, and place wagers.

Over the years, some aspects of horse racing have been credited for increasing its popularity and countrywide appeal. The sport is fun to watch and could also be a source of revenue for many, especially gamblers.

While some Americans love to watch horse racing to stay entertained and see their favorite jockeys compete to stardom, others love the game because of the monetary opportunities it brings.

Horse Racing Betting

Betting in itself is a popular vice in the United States, and if you’ve ever placed a bet before, you’ll agree that winning is one of the best feelings ever. The same can be said about horse racing wagering. Nothing beats seeing the horse you picked win a race. And of course, nothing tops cashing out on a ticket.

The popularity of horse racing may have dropped in recent times, but it still boasts a big economy. Despite the sharp decrease, the market is still valued at more than $3 billion, and gamblers can eat their fair share of the cake now and then.

Horse racing betting can be done offline or online, although the latter is more prominent today, giving its ease.

It is important to note that placing a bet is a skill that must be learned. If you’re new, it’s advisable to search for available resources that have horse wagering explained in detail.

Is Horse Racing Betting Illegal?

Horse racing betting is a form of gambling by definition, although the U.S. federal law distinguishes it from other types of sports betting. Horse racing was exempted when the federal government enacted the anti-gambling act in 2006. The law prohibited people from placing bets on a sports game.

Today, betting on horse races is legal in most states, although each state has its regulations. Online betting is prohibited in some states, although many cities still allow their residents to bet online.

States that Allow Horse Racing Betting

These are some of the states where betting on horse racing is considered legal:

1.   New Jersey

New Jersey is arguably the most prominent online betting state. New Jersey was ahead of almost every other state in legalizing online gambling (as far back as 2013). The industry has enjoyed tremendous growth ever since.

Every bettor in America should thank the State of New Jersey because its legalization and overall success helped shape the landscape of online gambling in the United States. You can place bets on any of the numerous regulated horse racing websites available in the state.

2.   Indiana

In Indiana, you can bet virtually and in land-based casinos. The state has numerous mouth-watering betting options for its residents. Since 2019 and today, people have been allowed to place bets using a mobile device and from the comfort of their homes.

3.   Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is one of the fastest growing online gambling states despite its delay in legalizing online gambling. Since 2017, the state has reformed the gaming space to allow more gambling options that were initially unavailable. Today, you can easily access a horse racing site using a mobile device to place a bet.

4.   Michigan

Michigan legalized online betting in 2018, and the state’s gambling industry has been thriving ever since. Cities like Detroit offer a plethora of online betting options to choose from, with numerous land-based casinos also in operation. Hey! If you love gambling and live in Michigan, you know what to do next.

5.   California

The Golden State, with a $2 trillion economy, is a gold mine for gamblers. It’s cash-rich and has a booming online horse betting economy. Gamblers are free to bet online at any horse racing site, provided the website is licensed and adhere to government regulations. With exciting offers and incentives, Californians are having fun gambling.

6.   West Virginia

The state of many mountains legalized online gambling in 2018 and has since offered many options to residents. You can easily play online casinos, poker, and bet on horse races from the comfort of your home using a phone or desktop device.

7.   New York

You must have been scrolling through the list, thinking in your mind, “Where’s New York?”

New York is one of the most gambling-friendly states in the country, and bettors are allowed to play many forms of online gambling, horse racing wagering included. New York also allows bettors to play in land-based commercialized casinos across the state.

States With Horse Racing Betting Bans

Some states prohibit horse racing betting, and residents may need to visit neighboring states where betting is legal to place their bets.

The following states are yet to legalize horse racing betting fully:

1.   Nevada

Although Nevada has legalized and still regulates pari-mutuel wagering, there are no functional race tracks. Nevada doesn’t issue licences to online racing gambling sites.

2.   Texas

Texas is one state at the forefront of conservatism in America, so it’s no secret that gambling is prohibited in the state. There are only two operational land-based casinos in the whole of Texas, the second-largest state in the country.

3.   Arizona

Although people can place bets on horse races in Arizona, Arizonans cannot wager on horse racing online. It’s only legal to visit a racetrack to place a bet. Arizona also has licensed off-track physical locations in operation.

4.   Tennessee

Tennessee has zero-tolerance for land-based casinos, and there are strict sanctions for people who establish casinos in the state. However, it offers many online options to gamblers.

Residents can earn money playing horse racing by visiting any of the gambling websites in the state. Since 2019, Tennessee has allowed gamblers to place bets online using a mobile device.

Other states with strict gambling laws include Alaska, Utah, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, and North Carolina.


There are many horse racing betting platforms today, a far contradicting reality to the betting landscape a few years ago.

The battle for the legalization of horse racing betting throughout the country is still on. While some states like Texas are still bent on maintaining strict laws, other states like Arizona are becoming more flexible. It remains to be seen what to expect in the years to come. Individuals who love to gamble but live in states where it’s illegal can only hope for more lenient policies in the future.

Image Source: Julia Joppien

“For a unique and real perspective on horse racing, I read Jonathan Stettin’s column Past the Wire.” Bob Baffert, Multiple Triple Crown winner, Eclipse Award winner, Hall of Fame Champion Trainer

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