You can still hit the tracks to place real money bets, but it’s no longer mandatory. Most of the racetracks in the US and UK now openly work with betting websites to help fans of horse racing place bets from home. As long as you have a computer and a little money, you have everything you need to get in on the action.
Our US readers will be happy to know that online horse racing is 100% legal. When the US government cracked down on internet gambling in 2006, it provided exemptions specifically for horse and greyhound racing. What this means for you is that you can place your wagers at licensed and legal betting websites.
Our readers from the UK and elsewhere also have a pretty nice selection of legal and regulated betting sites that feature horse races around the world. Getting started is as simple as choosing a site and signing up for an account.
Yes, getting started is easy, but it’s still important that you choose the right betting site. There are plenty of safe, legal betting sites out there. Stay with sites that are licensed, regulated and authorized to do business in your country. Here are a few of our recommendations:
Horse Racing Betting Online
The wagers that you place on horses online correspond to actual races that are held at real tracks around the world. These races accept bets in person, and betting sites also allow you to place wagers from a distance. In some cases, the wagers that are collected online are pooled with the wagers that are collected in person. This has helped many struggling tracks create more attractive prizes for everyone.
Most of the top racing betting sites also have arrangements with track owners that allow the sites to stream the races live on your computer. You don’t even have to visit the track in person to watch the action unfold. In fact, you don’t even have to place bets to watch live. As long as you have an account, you can log in any time and see the races for free.
This is a convenient arrangement because you can watch your wagers play out in real time. If you don’t live near a track, it’s a nice bonus just for having an account at a betting site. It also helps build trust between customers and the websites that take their action.
The best way to get started is to just try it for yourself. Sign up for an account at a betting site, make a deposit and place a couple of small bets to get a feel for how it all works. Most sties also have in-depth betting tutorials that explain all the different types of bets and their associated payouts.
How to Bet on Horse Races
Even though horse racing is a fairly simple sport for spectators, there is an impressive variety in the types of bets that are available. Most of these wagers are simple; others are a bit more complex. But overall, it’s not too terribly difficult to get a grasp of horse betting.
There are a number of simple wagers that you can get the hang of in no time. Basic wagers such as betting on one specific horse to win the whole thing are pretty easily understood. However, it can get a little complicated when you start to box and key your bets.
But fear not; even the most complicated bets aren’t really all that bad. It just takes a little getting used to all the terminology and figuring out how to fill out the betting slips. Let’s start with some of the most basic racing bets and work our way up in complexity from there.
Types of Horse Bets and Wagers
- Win: You pick a single horse to take 1st place. The simplest bet of them all.
- Place: You pick a single horse and win if that horse takes 1st OR 2nd.
- Show: You pick a single horse and win if that horse takes 1st, 2nd OR 3rd.
- Across the Board: You pick a single horse and place three bets on him: a win bet, a place bet and a show bet. You win all three bets if your horse takes 1st. You win the place and show bets if your horse takes 2nd. You win the show bet only if your horse takes 3rd.
- Exacta: Your picks must take 1st and 2nd place in that exact order for you to win.
- Trifecta: Your picks must take 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in that exact order for you to win.
- Quinella: Your picks must take 1st and 2nd place, but the order they finish in doesn’t matter.
- Superfecta: Your picks must take 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place in that exact order for you to win.
- Boxing a Bet: Let’s say you’d like to make a trifecta bet on three horses that you feel are very strong. The only problem is you have no idea which order they’ll finish in. Instead of leaving it up to chance, you can box your bet. This essentially tells the betting site to place a trifecta wager on every possible outcome for you using those three horses that you have in mind. You can box as many horses as you want, but it does get expensive. You can box any bet that requires you to pick the exact order of finishers.
Using another trifecta example, let’s say you want to place a $1 wager on each possible outcome involving 4 horses. This would cost you a total of $24 because there are 24 unique outcomes involving 4 horses and the top 3 places.
- Keying a Bet: Keying a bet is similar to boxing a bet except it has one “key” horse that you pick to take 1st place in the race. The remaining picks may finish in any order.
- Daily Double: This is the most basic wager that spans across more than one race. In a daily double, you must pick the winners of two consecutive races.
- Pick 3, Pick 4 and Pick 6: These wagers are similar to daily doubles except they span across more races. A pick 3 requires you to pick the winners of 3 consecutive races. Pick 4s and Pick 6s span across four and six consecutive races, respectively.
Online Horse Racing Betting in the United States
Horse betting is unique because it is one of the only two types of online gambling that have been specifically legalized and regulated in the United States (the other being dog racing). Other forms of gambling reside in a legal grey area, but horse racing was explicitly exempted from legislation that cracked down on internet gambling in 2006.
This is great news for horse racing fans because it means you can play at legal and regulated websites based in the US. You can transfer funds quickly, get paid on time and bet on all the major races in the US and overseas with ease.
All the same types of bets that are available at the track are also offered online. You can make all your standard straight-up picks, trifectas, quinellas and so on. You can box your bets, run Pick 3s and more. In short, the horse race betting sites in the US have done an excellent job recreating the track experience at home.
Internet Horse Betting in the UK
All online gambling is legal and regulated in the UK. This means you can visit any licensed betting site in the UK and legally place real money wagers on horse races. The overall experience is pretty much the same in the UK as it is in the US.
UK racing sites also provide live racing video and access to a wide range of bet-types. If you enjoy horse racing, you’ll have a good time at any quality racing site in the UK. Speaking of which, our readers in the UK have many options.
One of the advantages you get living in the UK is that you have access to many high quality betting sites. Instead of trying to ban online gambling, the UK government has embraced it and set up a nice regulatory system for would-be betting sites. Thus, you have plenty of betting options.
Racing Betting Elsewhere
Gambling laws vary greatly from nation to nation, so we can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer here. What we can tell you is that most countries have at least some access to online horse betting. It may not be expressly legal where you live, but it is possible.
Your best bet is to talk to a lawyer or check with whoever is in charge of enforcing the law in your area. Find out what their take is on people who place bets online. In many cases, they will tell you the law is unclear and to proceed with caution.