While there are dozens of tracks in the US and Canada holding live horse racing during the year, not every horse racing fan lives near a track. For people who like to bet on horses but don't have access to live racing, Off Track Betting (OTB) is often the next best thing. Since the regulations for horse racing wagering are set by individual state and provincial legislatures, the availability of OTBs varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally all OTBs offer the opportunity to bet on a live television feed of races from major tracks.
OTB Locations Near Me
When looking for an OTB location near to where you live, your best bet is often to check websites of the state or provincial governing body for racing, such as the New York Gaming Commission, or the Illinois Racing Board, for example, to find the most recent location info. Of course, if you can't get to an OTB, you can always wager online with one of these recommended racebooks.
OTB Race Tracks
Just like going to the track, going to an OTB to bet thoroughbred or harness racing can be a great day out with friends, particularly in places where the majority of OTBs are located in pubs or restaurants. As mentioned above, however, it's important to note that every state or province sets their own rules about gambling on horses and the availability of off track betting.
Since governments and goverment policies can change from year to year, the rules about wagering and OTBs can also change. While it's difficult to list every aspect of every jurisdiction in North America, there are a few general observations that can be made.
OTBs in Pubs and Restaurants
In many states, the government allows for individual race tracks to enter into partnership with privately owned bars, pubs and restaurants to provide the track's feed of simulcast racing (that is, live racing from different tracks broadcast on closed-circuit television) to the pub or restaurant, which then provides customers with racing programs and the option to place a bet either directly to a person at a "betting window" or through an automated machine.
This is the system used in places such as California, Arizona, and Illinois, for example, and in these cases there are typically dozens of different locations hosting OTBs.
While being able to socialize with friends while also playing the ponies is probably the most fun way to enjoy horse racing, the one drawback to this system is that because the host location of the OTB is a privately owned business, the business model for these types of locations can frequently change, due to a change in ownership or other factors.
A business that operates as sports bar one year could become an Italian restaurant the next, and thus not renew their OTB contract. In the past five years in Illinois, for example, 16 different OTB locations closed - but 10 other new locations were opened. This being the case, it's important to confirm with the individual location that they do in fact have OTB wagering when planning to go out and bet the races.
OTB Betting Parlours and On Track Simulcasting
Besides the pub-and-restaurant model for OTBs, some jurisdictions - notably New York State - have designated purpose-built betting parlours for OTB wagering. In these cases, while the location typically provides some basic food and drink choices, they are essentially places to bet on the races, and lack some of the social atmosphere you would find at a bar or restaurant. On the other hand, these types of locations are usually set up to provide for betting on a far greater number of tracks, and unless there is a major change in state government policy, they tend to be more stable as far as being a year-after-year OTB option.
Otherwise, virtually every thoroughbred or harness racing track in North America is open to provide simulcast racing wagering on a daily basis, even when the track is not holding a live racing meet. While not strictly OTBs - since they are located at the track - they basically function like a stand-alone betting parlour, in that they provide a wide variety of tracks to bet on, and typically will also provide some basic food and drink options for customers.