New York has featured horse racing longer than any other state. The English held a race in NY in 1665, not long after they defeated the Dutch at New Amsterdam.
The Empire State has since become one of the premier destinations for horse racing in the US. It houses more tracks than other states and offers prominent races, such as the Belmont Stakes.
Bettors can also place wagers remotely at off track betting locations found throughout the state.
Is horse racing legal in NY?
Yes. Horse racing has been legal in New York for more than a century.
It was banned, along with other forms of gambling, in the late 18th century. This ban decimated the horse racing industry and caused many tracks to close.
However, prominent courses like Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course were all able to make it through this challenging period. Eventually, racing became legal again and started thriving.
Today, New York boasts one of the country’s largest racing industries.
Who regulates horse racing in NY?
The New York State Gaming Commission regulates it, which presides over both thoroughbred and standardbred racing.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is a nonprofit corporation that runs the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga tracks. These thoroughbred courses are the largest racing venues in the state.
They collectively offer year-round racing. Belmont Park operates from May to July, and from September to October; Saratoga is open from July to September; Aqueduct operates from November to April.
What is off track betting?
New York offers legal off track betting (OTB), which refers to betting on horse racing away from the tracks.
This type of gambling takes place at sanctioned locations throughout NY. Off-track betting is a convenient option for horse-racing bettors who don’t live close to racetracks.
The state legalized OTB in 1970. This legislation paved the way for dozens of OTB parlors to open in New York City.
Legislators hoped that allowing so many off-track locations would cut down on illegal gambling in NYC. However, the rampant growth of OTB facilities also began eating into live racing revenue.
In 1978, the Interstate Horseracing Act was passed to create a compromise between OTB locations and racetrack owners.
This law sees off-track parlors share revenue with the state, racetracks, and horse owners. Bettors help pay this revenue through surcharges, which are taken from winning wagers.
The Interstate Horseracing Act also prevents OTB facilities from being located within 60 miles of a racetrack.
Today, five state-owned corporations run New York’s OTB industry. Each corporation oversees OTB in a specific section of the state. Furthermore, these entities are run by a board of directors appointed by local governments within their jurisdiction.
The OTB corporations accept bets at various locations, including terminals in bars and restaurants as well as off-track parlors. They also take wagers via phone and online.
Of the bets placed at OTB locations and terminals, 77% go into the pari-mutuel pools. Between 17% and 18% goes to the off-track corporations, while another 5% to 6% is taken through surcharges.
Top New York racetracks
The Empire State is home to some of the most iconic racetracks in the world. A few of New York’s tracks are over a century old, which gives them a unique character.
Many of these venues feature high-profile races that draw serious betting action.
Here’s more information on the various tracks throughout New York:
- 110-00 Rockaway Blvd., South Ozone Park, NY 11420
Aqueduct is a thoroughbred racetrack and racino found in the Jamaica and South Ozone Park neighborhoods of Queens, NYC. It’s also located adjacent to the Resorts World Casino.
This is a winter track that’s open from November to April. You can find bet types and race types posted on the Aqueduct Racetrack’s website during the season.
Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel
- 8315 Park Road, Batavia, NY 14020
This harness racing track has turned into an all-around entertainment destination. In addition to featuring a half-mile track and live racing, Batavia Downs also features a casino, spa, and restaurants.
Races run from July to September. You’ll find details for the races available on the website throughout the season.
- 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY 11003
Part of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes have made this track world famous. But Belmont Park is about more than just the “Test of the Champion.”
Belmont Park features races throughout the spring and summer. Minimum bets run at low as $0.50, and the track offers separate windows for high rollers risking at least $50 per bet.
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack
- 5857 NY-96, Farmington, NY 14425
Finger Lakes Racetrack has had a tumultuous history that’s seen it survive financial difficulties on multiple occasions. The track was hit especially hard by off-track betting in the 1980s.
However, Finger Lakes has rebounded over the years thanks to simulcast racing and a racino. The latter was added during a $10.5 million renovation in 2004.
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack offers live racing from April to November. The doors to the track open at 11:30 a.m. on race days.
Monticello Casino & Raceway
- 204 NY-17B, Monticello, NY 12701
This harness racing course offers events throughout most of the year. Its schedule runs from April to December.
The website does not provide a lot of information on betting. However, you can at least use the Monticello Raceway site to figure out races’ times and dates.
Saratoga Race Course
- 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Opened in 1863, Saratoga is one of America’s most historic racetracks. It’s also one of the largest, seating up to 50,000 spectators.
Saratoga Race Course stages races from July to September. Purses range from $100,000 to $1.25 million, which attracts many notable horses.
Tioga Downs Casino Resort
- 2384 W. River Road, Nichols, NY 13812
This harness racing track was updated to offer modern features and better seating. It also features a casino, hotel and exclusive golf club.
Tioga Downs holds races from June to September. The website doesn’t offer any information on bets. However, it provides useful resources on handicapping races.
Vernon Downs Casino & Hotel
- 4229 Stuhlman Road, Vernon, NY 13476
Vernon Downs is a harness racing track that’s hooked onto a large casino and hotel. It also houses several restaurants and regular entertainment acts.
Live races take place from May to August. Vernon Downs also features simulcast racing in comfortable settings.
- 810 McClean Ave., Yonkers, NY 10704
Yonkers Raceway features a half-mile track on the edge of New York City. It was recently remodeled and now offers nicer facilities than most tracks in the state.
This is another harness racing course and its racing schedule runs from May to August.
About the New York Racing Association
The NYRA succeeded the Greater New York Association in 1955. It operates separately from the State Gaming Commission.
This nonprofit was served a federal indictment in 2003 for income tax evasion. Mutuel clerks laundered money through the track from 1980 to 1999 on orders from middle management.
The NYRA paid a $3 million fine to the US government and agreed to new cash-handling policies to prevent future money-laundering incidences. The Department of Justice dismissed the federal indictment when the NYRA complied with their demands.
The organization fell into financial trouble in 2006. The NYRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and restructured into New York Racing Association Inc.
Despite its legal and financial troubles, the NYRA continues to run New York’s biggest thoroughbred tracks. It signed a contract with the state to continue overseeing these tracks through 2033.
The state government approved $105 million in aid to help keep the NYRA operational. It also forgave millions in debt that the NYRA owed to the state.