Florida may not carry the same clout in the horse racing industry as New York or Kentucky, but it features one of the largest racing scenes in the country.
Several prominent tracks are spread throughout the Sunshine State, which is also home to lucrative events such as the Pegasus World Cup and Florida Derby.
Not surprisingly, horse racing betting is big in this state. Floridians can visit any number of pari-mutuel facilities scattered around the state. In addition, horse betting apps such as TVG and TwinSpires accept online wagers from bettors in Florida.
Here, you will find an all-encompassing guide to horse betting in Florida.
Both Florida and the federal government have always treated horse racing favorably.
Lawmakers carved out an exemption for horse betting in the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which prohibits gambling businesses from accepting online payments related to unlawful bets made in the US.
Horse betting was exempted from the UIGEA to prevent legal conflicts with simulcast and off-track betting.
Several prominent horse betting sites operate in Florida, none bigger than TVG.
Long active in the online horse betting game, TVG offers plenty of options for betting on races in Florida and across the country. What’s more, TVG boasts a 24-hour broadcast network dedicated to horse racing.
Combine that with an easy-to-use betting app, and accessing online horse wagering is as easy as it gets.
When it comes to legal horse betting, either online or in-person, you’ll find some similar betting options available. What do they mean exactly?
Before we get to some of the standard wagering options, it’s important to understand the term “pari-mutuel betting.” With pari-mutuel, all bets made on an event go into a pool. Once taxes and house shares are removed, the winners divide the remaining pot.
Now, what standard betting options will you find?
Like any other state with a high-profile racing industry, Florida allows betting on the sport. Wagers can be placed at tracks during live events and at off-track facilities.
If you’re interested in live racing, you can visit active courses like Gulfstream or Tampa Bay Downs. Such tracks feature various races throughout the year that you can both attend and bet on.
Off-track betting (OTB) involves placing wagers while away from the tracks. They offer a convenient way to wager on horse racing without visiting a track and are especially useful if you don’t live near a racecourse.
|Big Easy Casino||Hallandale Beach|
|Bonita Springs Poker Room||Bonita Springs|
|Calder Casino & Race Course||Miami Gardens|
|Casino Fort Pierce||Fort Pierce|
|Casino Miami Jai-Alai||Miami|
|Creek Entertainment Gretna||Gretna|
|The Casino @ Dania Beach||Dania Beach|
|Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club||Daytona Beach|
|Derby Lane||St. Petersburg|
|Ebro Greyhound Track||Ebro|
|Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino||Hallandale Beach|
|Hialeah Park Race Track||Hialeah|
|Magic City Casino||Miami|
|Melbourne Greyhound Park||Melbourne|
|Ocala Poker & Jai-Alai||Ocala|
|Orange Park Kennel Club||Orange Park|
|Orange City Racing and Card Club||Orange City|
|Palm Beach Kennel Club||West Palm Beach|
|Pensacola Greyhound Track||Pensacola|
|Pompano Park||Pompano Beach|
|Tampa Bay Downs||Tampa|
|Tampa Greyhound Track||Tampa|
The number of racecourses in the state has been trimmed down over the decades. However, Florida still houses several tracks that host races throughout the year.
Here are the venues where you can enjoy live racing and betting in the Sunshine State.
The Calder track has been hosting races since 1965. Like most pari-mutuel facilities, it added casino gaming to stay profitable.
The track rebranded to Calder Casino & Race Course in late 2009, and it officially launched the racino in January 2010.
In 2014, the Stronach Group reached an agreement with Calder owner Churchill Downs to rent and take over the track’s racing operations.
The facility’s racetrack has since been known as Gulfstream Park West and features fall races from October to November.
Gulfstream Park is Florida’s most popular racecourse today. Launched in 1939, it plays host to major international races like the Pegasus World Cup and Florida Derby.
Races are held from December through October, with the track taking a small break in the fall.
The facility underwent a $130 million renovation in 2004, including the modernization of its grandstand and clubhouse as well as adding slot machines.
This track has seen its ups and downs over the years. It was closed in 2001 and lost its racing license after not holding any races for several years.
Hialeah Park is far from the dominant track that it was from the 1930s to the ’60s. However, at least it has reopened and now offers some racing.
Quarter Horse events are held during the winter at the track, which draws its primary revenue from slot machines throughout the rest of the year.
Pompano Park has long been the biggest harness racing hub in Florida, referred to as the “Winter Home of Harness Racing.”
The track has certainly earned its nickname. Many owners and fans gladly migrate to Pompano Park for the winter to avoid the icy, cold northern tracks.
Races are held here throughout most of the year, with its only breaks coming in June and August.
Pompano Park offers simulcast horse racing 363 days of the year and features poker tables and slot machines.
Tampa Bay Downs is one of the most underrated racecourses in America. Opened in 1926, it has consistently performed well throughout the decades.
This track features a casino, like the others discussed in this list. It also houses a poker room located within the casino.
Tampa Bay Downs holds races several times a week from November to May. Similar to other Florida tracks, it’s one of the country’s most popular winter racing destinations.
The two biggest racing events in Florida are the Pegasus World Cup and Florida Derby. These thoroughbred meets are held at Gulfstream Park in January and March/April, respectively.
Launched in 2017, the Pegasus World Cup was once the richest horse race in the world. It surpassed the Dubai World Cup by offering a $16 million purse. However, Pegasus World Cup has since fallen back to second place after offering a $9 million purse in 2019.
The Florida Derby is a much more historic race that’s been running since 1952. It offers a $1 million purse and runs in either late March or early April.
This race takes place five weeks before the prestigious Kentucky Derby. Therefore, it’s used as one of the primary prep events for the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Florida was once the greyhound racing capital of the US. However, this distinction ended as 2020 came to a close and as all of the state’s greyhound tracks were phased out.
Greyhound racing rose to prominence in the 1970s and was a worthy rival to horse racing. Several racetracks converted to greyhound racing facilities during this decade.
The sport continued to thrive until the 2000s. Much like horse racing, greyhound events have seen poorer attendance in recent years.
Animal rights activists have also complained about the treatment of man’s best friend. All of this culminated in Amendment 13 passing, and, eventually, the closure of greyhound tracks.
Miami legalized pari-mutuel betting in 1921, helping Florida quickly become one of the racing industry’s most popular destinations.
The Sunshine State’s warm climate made it the perfect place for winter racing. This trend continued for decades in the absence of major winter events up north.
Miami hosted many races during the colder months, allowing the likes of Hialeah Race Park to rise to prominence during the 1930s and ‘40s. This suburban Miami course began hosting one of the nation’s biggest races during winter. Gulfstream Park, which is located in the northern Miami metro area, also hosted some major events.
The 1960s saw Florida become a hotspot for harness racing. Pompano Park started holding regular harness meets, and Seminole Downs soon followed suit.
Unfortunately, the state’s horse racing industry took a downturn in the 1970s, when some of the smaller tracks converted to greyhound racing facilities, including Seminole Downs.
Gulfstream continued to excel despite the declining interest in racing across the state. It eventually overtook Hialeah as Florida’s premier racetrack and still holds this distinction today.
Meanwhile, Hialeah declined to the point where it finally closed its doors in 2001. The once-renowned track has since undergone major changes. Thanks to a deal between the state government and the Seminole Tribe, Hialeah reopened as a racino. It now offers slot machines and Quarter Horse racing.
Racing is now largely consolidated to a small number of pari-mutuel facilities in the state. Aside from Hialeah Park, other horse tracks that are still in operation include Calder Race Course, Gulfstream Park, Pompano Park, and Tampa Bay Downs.