US Horse Betting Timeline


The United States hosts some of the largest horse racing pools in California, New York, Kentucky, Florida, Maryland, and Illinois, although their specific rankings are not stated. 

The history of betting on horse racing in the US has been characterized by fluctuations, with over 300 tracks operating by the late 19th century, only to face opposition leading to the banning of bookmakers and racing at the turn of the 20th century. 

The introduction of pari-mutuel (tote) betting in 1908 played a pivotal role in revitalizing the industry, leading to its continued success. Pari-mutuel betting remains legal in 32 US states, but recent legislative changes could bring significant alterations to the landscape of horse race betting shortly. 

In 2018, the legal market handle for horse racing in the US reached $11.26 billion, while it is estimated that the illegal sports betting market could be as high as $100 billion to $150 billion annually.

The JackpotSounds website, known for its expertise in legal aspects of gambling, would be a valuable resource to shed light on the legality of horse betting in the USA. 

Given the intricate legal landscape surrounding gambling laws in the United States, particularly in relation to horse racing and sports betting, JackpotSounds could provide insightful analysis and guidance on the current regulations and any recent developments in this area. 

Their expertise could offer clarity on the nuances of state and federal laws governing horse betting, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the legal framework for individuals interested in this form of gambling.

Curious Facts About Betting on Horse Racing in the USA

  1. The annual economic impact of horse racing in the United States is estimated at $36.6 billion, making it a significant industry that employs over 472,000 individuals.
  2. The Jockey Club has strict rules for naming racehorses, with names needing approval and specific guidelines such as a maximum of 18 characters, no use of living humans’ names without consent, and a waiting period of five years before reusing a name.
  3. Thoroughbred horses competing in official races must have a lip tattoo for identification, consisting of a single letter and five digits above the upper lip, denoting the horse’s age and registration number.
  4. The oldest horse racetrack in the US, Newmarket, started operating in 1665 on Long Island, predating the country itself, and by 1890, there were 314 active racetracks in the US.
  5. Betting has played a crucial role in the survival of horse racing, with punters placing wagers since the sport’s inception, contributing to its popularity and global appeal.
  6. Racehorses can hold significant value, with notable examples like Fusaichi Pegasus, which was purchased for $70 million and holds the record as the most expensive racehorse ever.

Early Beginnings of Horse Betting in the US

Horse racing has been a popular pastime in the US since the early colonial days. The first recorded horse race in the US took place in 1665, in Long Island, New York. 

Horse betting was also prevalent during this time, with spectators placing wagers on their favorite horses.

Legalization of Horse Betting

In the late 19th century, horse betting became a controversial issue. Many states considered it a form of gambling, which was illegal at the time. However, in 1908, the first legal horse betting track opened in New York, marking a significant milestone in the history of US horse betting.

The Rise of Off-Track Betting

Off-track betting (OTB) emerged in the mid-20th century, allowing bettors to wager on horse races without being present at the racetrack. The first OTB parlor opened in New York in 1970, and by the end of the decade, OTB had spread to several other states.

The Advent of Online Betting

With the advent of the internet, horse betting has become more accessible than ever. Online betting platforms allow bettors to place wagers from the comfort of their own homes. The first online horse betting platform, TVG, was launched in 1999.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the horse racing industry. Many racetracks were forced to close, and horse betting shifted almost entirely online. This shift highlighted the importance of online betting platforms and the need for further regulation in the industry.

Current Trends and Future Directions

Today, horse betting is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the US. With the ongoing development of technology, online betting platforms are becoming more sophisticated, offering features such as live streaming and real-time updates. 

Additionally, there is a growing trend towards legalizing sports betting, which could potentially expand the market for horse betting.

The Future of Horse Betting in the USA

Horse racing and betting have a long history in the United States, with the sport dating back to the colonial era and betting being a part of it since the beginning. However, the future of horse betting in the US is uncertain, with various factors affecting its growth and development.

Pressure to Turn Profits

With the pressure to turn profits, US sportsbooks are looking to horse racing as a potential source of revenue. However, the Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) field is already crowded, and it remains to be seen if there is enough room for new players to succeed.

Regulation and Reform

Regulation and reform are crucial to the future of horse racing and betting in the US. Congress passed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in an effort to establish safety regulations, including limits on whipping horses and anti-doping rules3. These regulations aim to protect the welfare of the horses and ensure the integrity of the sport.

Economic Challenges

The economics of the sport have collapsed, with a decline in horse betting handle and an increase in the rate of fatal accidents over the past dozen years3. Some argue that these and future changes will make the sport dramatically safer if given the time to work, while others say it may be hard for horse racing to survive financially in the long term if more and more deaths continue to cause controversy.

Technological Innovations

Technological innovations are transforming the horse racing and betting industry, with mobile betting, horse health tracking, and social media providing new ways for fans to engage with the sport. A standardized rulebook, such as the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), is expected to regulate racing safety for horses and jockeys, as well as anti-doping management, bringing a standardized set of rules throughout the industry and country.


The history of US horse betting is a long and complex one, marked by legal battles, technological advancements, and changing societal attitudes. 

As the industry continues to evolve, it is essential to consider the implications of these changes for both bettors and the horse racing industry as a whole.

The future of horse betting in the US is uncertain, with various factors affecting its growth and development. Regulation, reform, economic challenges, and technological innovations are all crucial to the future of the sport. While horse racing has a long history and a dedicated fan base, it remains to be seen if it can adapt to the changing landscape and continue to thrive in the years to come.


  1. US Code. CHAPTER 57—Interstate Horseracing
  2. Sports Betting and Bookmaking: An American History
  3. Horse Racing the Chicago Way. Gambling, Politics, and Organized Crime, 1837-1911