There is great excitement in heading to a racetrack and cheering your pick across the finish line. However, not everybody can make it to the track.
Fortunately, if you want to place a bet on a horse race, there are many alternative options, whether that’s visiting a dedicated off track betting venue, or gambling online through your laptop or your mobile device.
This guide delves into all categories of off track betting (known as OTB); it is divided into the following sections:
- What is off track betting? A look at the options available to those who can’t make it to the races.
- Is off track betting legal? How state and federal laws make off track betting possible.
- Which states allow OTB? We discuss from which states you can place a bet.
- Off track betting apps: Which off track betting apps are the best?
Top betting site in 2023 with OTB
What is off track betting?
The simplest sense of the meaning is any betting or wagering that takes place away from the actual horse racetrack that is hosting the live race. Overall, this covers most of the gambling that takes place on any race, as only a small percentage of the betting population will be betting at the track at any one time.
Online gambling today takes up the vast majority of bets away from the track, and there are several registered and perfectly legal sites you can use.
These sites link to the pari-mutuel betting pools, so in effect, placing a bet with one of these sites works as if you were at the track.
Three legal online betting sites top our recommendations:
#1 TVG: TVG is one of the biggest names in horse racing, with its dedicated live streaming service (open to members and nonmembers). This live coverage is the cornerstone of the site, while offers such as free past performances and innovative stats packages, only enhance the lure of TVG. TVG is another site whose focus is purely on horse racing.
New customers can make their first single-horse win wager up to $200 and receive it back if they lose using the promo code 200TVG.
#2 BetAmerica: BetAmerica offers a comprehensive database of horses from around the world and incredible coverage of the races. Check out its horse racing contests. With a sportsbook too, this site is ideal for those who like the occasional bet on the NFL, the other big leagues and college sports.
#3 TwinSpires: Named after the famed Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, this renowned site offers a dedicated horse racing service from tracks across the world.
Linked to Equibase, this site is an ideal base for those who like to delve into the statistical side of racing when assessing the form and check out the live streaming, too.
Though any of the above sites we recommend, the main focus of this article is the physical off track betting (OTB) sites available across the USA.
Many people who can’t make it to the track will still look for a similar betting experience by engaging with other racing fans during a big race. Is there anything more enjoyable than being with a bunch of people who have all backed the same horse, and then hearing that collective cheer when it crosses the line first? That’s an experience that you can’t get online, which perhaps explains the popularity of OTB venues.
Is off track betting legal?
While, in the past, there have been many gambling ventures which could undoubtedly be considered illegal; however, today, off track betting is perfectly legal.
No, that doesn’t mean that you can start your gambling venture on a street corner. What it does mean is that there are many licensed venues throughout the country where you can place a bet.
One of the most popular forms of off track betting is via simulcast, where you can enjoy racing from the track at a remote location (including other tracks). This perfectly legal transmission brings you to the heart of the racing.
Off track betting apps
The best of the apps to enjoy off track betting come from these three sites:
Each of these offers services across many states, although dedicated apps in particular states, such as New Jersey, also provide a similarly high level of quality.
To download an app, you’ll need to head to the app store if using an Apple device or download from the site itself if using an Android device. (Some sites will require Android users to use the responsive mobile website, which will be set up in the same way as an app.)
From within these apps, you’ll be able to place bets, check the form, purchase past performances and stream the races, too.
Which states allow off track betting?
The first state legislature to allow OTB was in New York when a bill was passed in 1970. In total, 16 states signed up with California, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey and Washington each added OTBs between 2002 and 2011.
Below is a list of states where you can enjoy off track betting (either online or at OTB sites):
The 10 biggest states for OTB
- New Jersey: Residents of New Jersey can enjoy off track betting at several fantastic sites within Atlantic City. These include the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and the Tropicana Casino & Resort Hotel.
- New York: Although New York’s OTB venture kicked things off in the 1970s, the state, that’s the home of the Belmont Stakes, has seen most of its OTB shops shuttered in recent years. However, there are legal moves to reintroduce OTBs in the state soon, so watch this space.
- Florida: Residents in Florida can enjoy OTB at more than 20 different locations. Many of these are linked to racetracks such as Tampa Bay Downs, while greyhound tracks and kennel clubs feature heavily.
- Delaware: The OTB betting options in Delaware are based around the racetracks of Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway and their respective casinos for simulcast betting.
- Maryland: While punters in Maryland can head to Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness Stakes, they can also visit the racetrack for simulcast betting at other tracks. Other OTB venues in the state include Laurel Park and the casino at Ocean Downs.
- Illinois: Racing fans in Illinois can enjoy simulcast betting at premium tracks such as Arlington International Racecourse, Fairmount Racetrack and Balmoral Park. There are also more than 25 other locations across the state where you can place racing bets, making it one of the richest states in terms of OTBs and an easy win if you’re searching for “OTBs near me”.
- California: Off track betting has been a regular feature in California for decades now, another state where the opportunities are almost endless, many of the venues based around county fairs. Racegoers at Santa Anita Park can enjoy simulcast betting.
- Colorado: With Arapahoe Park Racetrack for live racing and a scattering of OTB sites across the state, the choice is vast for residents of the Centennial State. The Southern Colorado Gaming & Event Center draws bettors from all over the state.
- Kentucky: The home state of the most famous race of all, Kentucky has three raceways for simulcast betting. Churchill Downs and those famous Twin Spires is joined by Ellis Park Racing and Turfway Park, too.
- Pennsylvania: With Penn National Race Course now fronted by the Hollywood Casino, this is the No. 1 destination for OTB action. Joining this venue are four turf clubs around the state with two based in Philadelphia.
Finding horse racing results
There are many resources anyone can use to find out the results of any race. Perhaps the best resources of all are by using the online services offered by the leading horse racing sites detailed above.
Each of the sites offers a results service, whether you are a member of the site or not. You’ll simply head to the “Results” page of your chosen site, and there you’ll find a full breakdown of each race.
Importantly, especially if you’ve won, you’ll find the payout charts. These are in great detail, showing the win, place and show returns as well as the payouts for those exotic bets such as the trifecta, superfecta and the high-paying Pick 6 bet.
If you become a member of any of these sites, you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy full-race replays. Ideal if you want to see your winning selection’s glory moment, or on the other side of the coin, to find out how unlucky you were when you lost.
The history of OTB
Up until the 1970s, the only state in the US that offered any form of off track betting was Nevada. However, after many unsuccessful attempts, New York State got the go-ahead in 1970.
The hope was that this initiative would increase gambling revenue, while also taking gambling off the black market, thereby reducing criminality. However, with the opportunity to bet away from the track, this had the negative knock-on effect of reducing attendances.
In 1978, a compromise was reached. The Interstate Horse Racing Act saw an agreement that no OTB parlor would be situated within 60 miles of any racetrack. There was also a financial agreement put in place too, where a portion of the profits from an OTB would be distributed between the state, the tracks and the horse owners.
This agreement saw a rise in the number of states happy to offer a range of OTB venues. The horse racing authorities introduced a more extensive range of bets, such as the exacta and the trifecta, to capitalize in these broader betting opportunities.
Despite the numbers of people at the tracks continuing to decrease, the revenue in the industry therefore increased.
In 2010, the original New York City OTB venture ceased to operate, due to a lack of profitability, although moves to reignite the industry are afoot.
The future of off track betting
In the broadest sense of the meaning, there will only be more betting opportunities for people away from the track itself. Most of this increase in numbers will be from people heading online to place their bets.
While a portion of this betting takes place with gray market offshore sites, there are more and more legal and regulated ventures within the US opening up, each offering a completely legitimate, safe and secure way of placing that bet online.
The future of live OTB sites seems secure, too. While betting online is perhaps the easiest option, there will always be people who want to enjoy the racing experience with other people, even if they can’t get to the track in question.
With so many racetracks now linked with casinos, there are some fantastic sites across the country where you can enjoy the ultimate simulcast experience. Even away from racetracks, there are many casinos and clubs dotted around the US where fellow racing fans can get together to enjoy the action.
As we move into the late 2010s and early 2020s, legal online betting and OTB will continue to work hand in hand. Some online sportsbooks have recent deals with casinos to offer their full range of services at land-based sites – the perfect merging on online sites and OTBs.
It looks like these partnerships will continue to grow, with further applications and developments in the pipeline in different states.