Horse Betting Regulations

What To Know About Horse Betting Regulations

February 3, 2024

There are few more popular sports in North America from a betting perspective than horse racing.

It has amassed a huge following throughout history, with one of the biggest events on the calendar taking place annually at the start of May in the form of the Kentucky Derby.

Until then we have a lot of prep races on the road to the Derby. You can check the full calendar here:

Not only is this race huge for those that follow the action throughout the season, but it also entices those that don’t regularly bet on the racing to get involved.

Early Racing History In The U.S.

Horse racing in the United States can be traced back to 1665 following the establishment of the Newmarket course in New York. However, it wasn’t until three years later that the American Stud Book was states, which began the organized nature of competitive horse racing.

The success of the sport saw around 310 tracks in operation between 1890 and 1894, with the American Jockey Club formed. However, the first big challenge that racing needed to overcome came in the early 20th century, as anti-gambling sentiment led to bans of all bookmaking across all states.

This meant that bets couldn’t be placed on the racing action, which almost eliminated the sport all together.

Pari-Mutuel Betting Born

There was a clear desire to bet on horse racing in the United States, and the introduction of pari-mutuel wagering could be argued was the factor that saved the sport in the nation in 1908. This enabled bets to be placed on the sport, and led to a boom within horse racing up until the start of the Second World War.

This type of betting is still extremely popular in the United States to this day, with the main premise of the bet seeing that winnings are taken from the purse based on the amount of winners that had winning selection. However, the popularity of racing dipped in the United States following the Second World War, and it wasn’t able to regain the mainstream success it had achieved before the war until horses regularly attempted to win the Triple Crown consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

How Does Betting Work?

Nowadays betting on course at the racing is regulated by the state in which the track is located in. A take is always removed from each betting pool, with this going to the state due to law. As well as this, the take will also see horsemen and the racetrack receive their payout for the action. On average, the take is typically 17% of the pools from the win and place markets, with the remaining 83% going to the players that have made winning selections.

However, pari-mutuel betting normally relies on a number of different factors that could determine the balance that players are competing for. This includes the type of wager that is placed and the location of the racetrack. Bigger tracks will typically see players earn more in their returns, as more players will be involved in the betting. Meanwhile, the opposite can be said for smaller tracks, which will be attended by a smaller number of players looking to wager on the horses.

Legalisation Of Online Betting

There is a growing appetite for betting on sport in general in the United States, and that is seeing a rise in the number of states that are putting through gambling laws in order to let residents wager online.

States such as Florida, Colorado, and Indiana all allow this option nowadays, while famous betting locations such as Kentucky and Nevada also enable bets to be placed on mobile devices. However, there remains a resistance in terms of this in some states. Among those include Alabama, Alaska, and Hawaii, which all still outlaw betting online and in-person.

Is The US Different From The UK?

Betting on horse racing in the United States is completely different from wagering on the sport in the United Kingdom. One of the most obvious differences is the fact that fixed odds betting is much more popular in the UK. Pari-mutuel wagering is also available in the United Kingdom, with Tote bets being very popular wagers among those attending a raceday.

There are number of regulations that customers in the United Kingdom must comply with in order to make wagers, with these including a minimum and maximum stake when wagering on the action. Interestingly, in the UK all winners are settled based on the runner first passed the post, meaning that results following a stewards’ enquiry have no impact on betting selections.

However, there could be massive changes in betting on racing in the near future, with a controversial White Paper recently claiming that all customers at an online bookmaker may be required to show financial records in order to make bets online. However, this regulation has been hit with a backlash, with the racing industry claiming that it would fight against any potential law.

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