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How to Bet on Horse Racing in the US

Betting on horses is one of the most important aspects of this sport, not only in the USA but around the world. Without the gambling industry, horse racing would likely be a fringe spectator sport with little to no mainstream following.

Even with many people not being invested in horse racing day in and day out, casual viewers will turn on their TVs and take notice of the biggest events. In the US, this means the Triple Crown races and perhaps the Breeders' Cup.

Where to Bet

The easiest place to go and place your bet is at your local track. If that option isn’t available to you then you’ll have to go online, but that isn’t available in a number of states. If you are a resident in Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas, Utah or the Carolinas, then you’ll find that betting on horses is not legal. No company will let you bet or open an account because of an opt-out exercised by the state from the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

If you live in any of the other states, then you can take advantage of the 1978 Interstate Horseracing Act where bets are placed legally as long as the track and place where the person is attempting to place the wager both have legal online horse racing betting.

Companies such as TVG, BetAmerica and TwinSpires are up and running specifically looking to attract the Horse Racing customer. Big online sportsbooks also cater for horse racing fans.

Types of Bets

In the United States, horse racing bets are placed via a parimutuel wagering system. This means that there are no fixed odds on a horse at any point. The track or sportsbook will typically take a 15-30% share of all bets placed on a race as profit and pay out the rest to any winning bettors.

To put it simply: You back your horse and the amount paid out depends on how many other bettors picked that horse and the amount in that pool. Typically, more people back the favored horses and therefore the payouts will be less as there are more successful bets placed. If an longer-shot horse comes home first then fewer bettors will win, but they’ll collect more money.

There are three straightforward bets that are commonplace within this industry: Win, Place and Show.

Win is exactly what it says/ If you place a bet on a horse to win, you’ll be successful if the horse crosses the finish line first.

Place is where you are betting on the horse to finish in the top two positions. It doesn’t matter if your chosen one ends the race in first or second, you’ll get paid either way.

Show is similar to place but you are betting on the horse to finish in the top three places.

Should you put on a Place or Show bet and your horse wins, the pay out will be less than if you’d backed your horse to Win straight up.

There are a handful of more exotic bets available to bettors:

  • Exacta, a bet on two horses to finish first and second in a certain order.
  • Quinella, a bet on two horses to finish in the top two but in either order.
  • Trifecta, a bet on the first three horses in the exact order.
  • Superfecta, a bet on the first four horses in the exact order.
  • Daily Double, a bet on winners of two different races.
  • Pick 3, a bet on winners of three straight races.
  • Pick 4, a bet on winners of four straight races
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