Ohio Horse Race Betting

Ohio is one of the better states for horse racing fans. There are seven active tracks inside state lines and an additional standalone off-track betting facility. Online horse betting is also legal throughout the state. In other words, there is nowhere in Ohio that wagering on horse racing is unavailable, as long as you have an internet connection

Read on for all the latest on Ohio’s horse betting scene.

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Can I bet on horse racing in Ohio?

Yes. Horse racing has been legal in one form or another in Ohio for roughly a century. It has existed in its current incarnation since 1975. In that year, House Bill 287 mandated that Ohio horse racing entities required licensing and regulation from the state government. At present, there are more than a half-dozen horse racing facilities in Ohio.

Is online horse betting legal in Ohio?

Yes, horse betting online is legal in Ohio. Several reputable horse betting sites operate legally in the state. These sites offer advance deposit wagering on horse races taking place all around the country and internationally. One of those options — TVG Racing — is also a 24-hour broadcast network dedicated to the sport.

Popular bet types in horse racing

Like many activities, horse racing comes with its own lingo and terminology, which can perhaps make the activity seem more difficult than it is. However, horse race wagering isn’t as difficult as it looks. In order to help you get started, here are the types of horse bets that you will encounter:

Straight wagers

This label is a fancy way to say that you are betting on the performance of a single horse in a race. You can wager on the horse to finish first, second or third, for instance.

Straight wagers are the simplest form of horse bet, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they are somehow only for beginners. In fact, these wagers are the foundation of handicapping. In order to make any other type of bet, you first need to be comfortable with how straight wagers work. Options include the following:

  • Win — You bet on a horse to win the race.
  • Place — The horse you bet on needs to finish in first or second place in the race.
  • Show — You bet on a horse to finish in any of the top three spots.

The payout for a successful win bet is greater than for wagers on horses to place or show.

It also is possible to place a combination of wagers on the performance of a single horse in the race. A win/place/show bet maximizes its payout if the horse wins, but it also pays out portions of the bet if the horse finishes second or third. You can also make “win/place” or “place/show” bets if you feel like limiting your exposure a bit.

Exotic wagers

Exotic wagers, meanwhile, are bets on multiple horses in the same race or multiple races. Here are the main options:

  • Exacta — Pick a horse to win and a second horse to place. Both horses must finish in the order that you’ve selected for your bet to win.
  • Quinella — Pick two horses to finish in the top two spots. In this case, the order in which the two horses finish does not matter, so long as your two picks finish first and second. Because of the added flexibility, you will have to pay twice the amount you do for an exacta wager on the same horses because you’re paying for both outcomes.
  • Trifecta — Pick a horse to win, a second horse to place and a third horse to show. The horses must finish in the order that you select.
  • Superfecta — Pick a horse to win, a second horse to place, a third horse to show and a fourth horse to finish fourth. You must get the correct order here, as well.
  • Pick 3, Pick 4, etc. — Pick the winning horse in multiple consecutive races (a “Pick 3” is a bet on three races, for instance). You must get all of your picks correct to win one of these wagers.

Exotic modifiers

You may have noticed that most exotic bets bear little margin for error. A single failed prediction on your part spoils the bet, even if you get everything else correct. You might choose the four horses correctly for your superfecta but in slightly the wrong order, and the whole thing is ruined.

Racetracks in Ohio also offer several modifiers for these types of wagers that can give you some leeway. These modifications to exotic bets can be quite helpful, but bear in mind that they also come with an extra cost. Therefore, be prepared to pay for the privilege of a bit of grace in your wagering. Here are the most common modifiers that you’ll encounter:

  • Box — A box bet removes the necessity for the horses to finish in the exact order that you pick. Instead, you win as long as the horses that you picked finish in the necessary spots in some order. The number of potential outcomes affects how much the box modifier will cost. For instance, a quinella bet is the same thing as an exacta box. Because you chose two horses to finish first and second, there are two possible outcomes in which they could do so. Hence, you must pay twice what you’d pay for the same exacta. For trifectas, there are six possible outcomes, and superfectas have 24 possibilities, so be wary about box bets with tons of selections.
  • Key — Many horse races feature a clear favorite to win the race. A key bet allows you to specify one horse to win, then select several horses to finish in the remaining places of your exotic bet. Depending on the selections you make, your only real concern once they’re off could be that the heavy favorite actually wins.
  • Wheel or field — This is a useful tool for key bets or other wagers where there are clear favorites. If you think that there are two horses likely to run away from the rest, you can select a wheel or field bet as the third part of your trifecta. Assuming the two favorites perform as expected, you can cash in if one of the long shots manages to show.
  • Partial wheel or custom — You don’t have to select the entire field if you do not want to. In a partial wheel or custom bet, you can include or omit members of your selected field as you like. It’s even possible to pick and choose a group of horses to finish in all three positions, although that’s probably a bad idea. The more likely application for one of these bets, however, is when you have a pick to win but aren’t able to decide between two horses to place. If you take a partial wheel and choose both to finish second, you don’t have to decide.

The most important thing to remember about horse betting in Ohio (or anywhere) is that you can bet however you want. If you want to structure a wager in a way few others have, that’s fine. Of course, there’s no guarantee that such a wager will succeed.

What are the different kinds of horse races?

There are many different types of race formats and categories within those formats. The most common type of Ohio horse race is a flat stakes race. However, there are a variety of other options, as well.

Types of horse races

Although there might be some gimmick races from time to time, horse races typically fall into one of four options. Each primary race type involves the horse bearing a single rider, although the manner in which the horse carries the jockey can be part of the variation.

  • Flat — Flat races are the most common type of horse race. Horses run around a flat surface without having to negotiate any obstacles. A single jockey rides on the horse’s back.
  • Harness — In a harness race, horses also run on a flat track without any obstacles. However, their jockeys ride behind them in small carts called “sulkies.” Harness races are usually shorter distances than flat races, and the horses are usually short-distance specialist quarter horses, rather than thoroughbreds or mares.
  • Steeplechase — Steeplechase races are less common, but might be somewhat familiar to Ohioans due to the fact that there is a corresponding track race of the same name that humans run. In a steeplechase, horses must negotiate various obstacles, including fences, low horizontal pole structures and small pools of water.
  • Endurance — An endurance race is uncommon but is fairly easy to understand. It is a longer-distance event than the typical flat race. Such races are taxing on the horses, of course, but also require a greater deal of training and stamina from their jockeys.

Categories of horse races

Whether you visit an Ohio racetrack or log onto an online betting site in the state, you will also see various designations associated with each race. In other words, all the races on the card might be flat races, but they’ll have other designations next to them. These words are descriptors about the experience and success levels of the horses in each race.

  • Stakes — Stakes races feature horses whose owners or trainers have contributed to the purse for the race. These races are the most prestigious and richest in the sport and include the three races of the Triple Crown.
  • Claiming — Every horse in the race is available for purchase. In fact, their prices are usually listed in the program for the day’s event.
  • Maiden — All the horses have never won a race. Of course, one of them (the winner) will no longer be able to participate in such races once it finishes.
  • Allowance — Races that impose limits on the weight of both the horses and the jockeys, which may more readily provide for competitions of pure skill.

At the end of the day, the race category may not matter much to casual bettors. Races happen and horses win, and those who predict the winners get paid. However, if you decide to deepen your handicapping acumen, then the category may actually mean something for your wagers.

How do horse betting odds work?

With sports betting in Ohio coming soon, you might need to start familiarizing yourself with different odds formats for wagering. Thankfully, horse racing is not that complicated when it comes to odds for betting. All racetracks in Ohio use the same fractional odds to display each horse’s chances of winning.

Fractional odds show you how much profit you stand to win in the numerator based on a wager equal to the denominator. For instance, if a horse is 3/1 to win, you would win a profit of $3 for every $1 that you bet if the horse actually ends up winning.

Horses with lower fractional odds are heavier favorites than horses with higher fractional odds. For instance, a horse that’s 3/1 to win is a bigger favorite than a horse that’s 5/1. As we mentioned, if you bet $1 on the first horse and were correct, you would win $3. But if you bet $1 on the longer shot and were correct, you would win $5.

While a track or betting venue may set the initial odds for each horse in a race, as money begins to flow in for one horse or another, those odds may shift as they respond to where the money is going.

Those changing odds are especially important to keep in mind when it comes to pari-mutuel wagering on horse races. Whatever the odds are when you place your bet doesn’t determine your potential payout. Instead, the final odds at post time are what matter. Thus if the odds were 3/1 when you bet but fell to 2/1 by post time, you would stand to win $2 (and not $3) for every $1 that you bet.

Obviously, odds don’t always go down. For instance, the horse you bet on at 3/1 could perform poorly leading up to the race, and the odds could move to 4/1 or higher.

Horse racing bonuses and free bet offers

TVG horse betting and other horse racing betting sites often offer bonuses to new customers who create accounts and deposit money. Here are the typical categories of such bonuses that you will encounter:

  • Welcome — A welcome bonus usually involves site credits or free bets if you’re a new player. You cannot withdraw these credits right away, but you can use them to test drive the site for free and keep any profits if you do manage to win.
  • Deposit — Deposit bonuses match a percentage of the money you add to your account when you make a deposit. You’ll likely have to play through the value of the credits a few times to convert them into cash.
  • Insurance — Insurance bonuses offer to compensate you for your net losses over a period of time or on specific bets. If you show a loss, then you’ll get site credits as a refund. If you win, you simply keep your winnings as normal.
  • Loyalty — Loyalty programs tend to offer benefits based on your wagering history.
  • Odds boosts — Odds boosts pump up the potential payouts on certain horses. Usually, these boosts are on long shots to encourage wagering. High-risk exotic bets are also a common target for odds boosts, as the chance the book will have to pay out the increased amount is relatively low.

Top horse racing betting tips for beginners

If you have been a frequent visitor to Ohio’s racetracks, you might already have your own system for horse race betting. However, if you’re newer to betting, here are some tips to get started. Remember, though, that there are no guarantees in horse betting.

  • Buy the program. A program at an Ohio racetrack will cost no more than a few dollars, and it contains information that can be absolutely invaluable. Study the program and learn about the track’s conditions for the day, how the horses in each race have performed under similar conditions and how well the horses have run in recent events.
  • Watch the odds. Once you have your program in hand, items of particular note are the opening odds for each horse. As each race comes up, compare the opening odds with the current odds. Note any discrepancies between the two. You may be able to glean information about what experienced bettors are doing.
  • Keep it simple. Despite the fact that we explained a host of exotic bets above, you should probably stick with straight wagers for the vast majority of your bets. As a general rule, the more complex a wager is, the higher the risk. Make the simplest bets your bread and butter at the track.
  • “Favorite” doesn’t mean “certain.” Even though races will have favorites to win, don’t make the mistake of believing that such an outcome is a done deal. Favorites can still lose, and long shots can still win.
  • It’s no accident that they’re long shots. That being said, however, don’t make a habit of always backing horses with the longest odds. Bettors and analysts aren’t going to make mistakes on the dregs of the race very often. Long shots do occasionally win, place or show, and they undoubtedly enrich the few bettors who back them when that happens. However, those big payouts are paid by all the people who bet on long shots before. Don’t be a sucker for the big win.
  • Don’t bet with rent money. Finally, the last tip is a universal one for all types of gambling. Whether you’re at a racetrack, a casino or playing the Ohio Lottery, you need to gamble with money that you absolutely do not need for anything important in your life. If you feel any kind of pain after a loss, you’re taking things too far. If you cannot stop, you need to get in touch with the responsible gambling resources available in Ohio.

Live horse racing tracks and betting locations in Ohio

You certainly have plenty of options for betting on horse racing in Ohio. There are seven active racetracks that offer both live betting and simulcast betting on races around the country. Additionally, there is also one standalone off-track betting location that offers simulcast betting.

Although there’s no question that online betting sites are more convenient to use, there are plenty of reasons to visit a live venue to place wagers. For one thing, getting to see the horses race in person is undoubtedly thrilling. There is also a vibe and air of tension that permeates the track, making the outcome of your wagers (and everyone else’s bets) much more exciting. Here are the places to go if you want to bet on horse races in Ohio:

  • Belterra Park Gaming: 6301 Kellogg Road, Cincinnati, OH 45230
  • Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway: 3100 Needmore Road, Dayton, OH 45414
  • Eldorado Gaming Scioto Downs: 6000 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43207
  • JACK Thistledown Racino: 21501 Emery Road, North Randall, OH 44128
  • Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course: 655 N. Canfield Niles Road, Youngstown, OH 44515
  • Miami Valley Gaming: 6000 State Route 63, Lebanon, OH 45036
  • MGM Northfield Park: 10777 Northfield Road, Northfield, OH 44067
  • Cedar Downs Off Track Betting Theater (OTB): 1935 Cleveland Road W., Sandusky, OH 44870

Ohio horse betting FAQ

What is the gambling age for horse betting in Ohio?

In order to place a bet on a horse race in Ohio, you must be at least 18 years old. However, the casino floors at most of the tracks in Ohio will still require you to be 21 or older.

What agency oversees OH horse racing?

The Ohio State Racing Commission. The agency oversees both live racing and simulcasting in the state.

Do Ohio horse bettors have to pay taxes?

Yes. All winnings from gambling are taxable, including any winnings at one of Ohio’s horse tracks or online horse betting sites. You will have to pay taxes to both the federal government and the state.

What is pari-mutuel betting?

Essentially, pari-mutuel wagering means that all the money that people bet on different horses in a given race goes into a single giant pool of cash. The track takes a cut from the pool, and then the winning ticket holders divide up the remainder.

The key difference for the bettor, though, concerns how pari-mutuel wagering differs from fixed-odds betting. With fixed-odds betting (such as for betting on other sports), whatever the odds are when you place your bet determines the payout if you win. With pari-mutuel betting, it depends on what the odds were when betting closed and the race began.

Are there racebooks at Ohio casinos?

No. Unless the casino in question is already a racino with an attached track, there is no way to bet through teller windows at casino facilities.