You can train racehorses in North Carolina, but you can’t bet on them without visiting one of the state’s tribal casinos.
Gambling laws in the Tar Heel State are on the stricter end of the U.S. spectrum. Only a state-run lottery, casino-style gaming at three tribal casinos, charitable bingo and raffles, and low-stakes “beach bingo” is allowed.
Betting on sports and horse racing is legal only at the tribal casinos. You are welcome to Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy; Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee; and the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain.
Online and mobile wagering is not allowed.
North Carolina Horse Betting Overview
You wouldn’t know it, but horse racing was the most popular sport in the state from the colonial period until after the Civil War, according to the North Carolina Encyclopedia.
Interest in the sport declined after the Civil War, but racing persisted. The state fair in Raleigh and other county and regional fairs continue to present both thoroughbred and harness racing well into the 20th century.
But without parimutuel gambling to support purses and generate more interest in the sport, those efforts were eventually snuffed out.
As a result, today, only a few remnants of the state’s racing history remain.
The Pinehurst Harness Track remains an important training center for standardbred harness horses and also hosts dressage competitions. The track – is the oldest continuously operating equine sports facility in the state dating to 1915. According to its website – has played a role in preparing 10 champions and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Several tracks also conduct no-betting steeplechase racing, including the Tryon Block House, which has been operating since 1947.
Because parimutuel gambling remains illegal in North Carolina, except in the tribal casinos, no licensed providers of online advance-deposit wagering on horse races accept residents as customers.
Fun fact about horse racing in North Carolina
One of the greatest thoroughbred race horses and stallions in U.S. history, Sir Archy, hailed from North Carolina. Though he was foaled in Virginia in 1805, the colt was sold to a trio that included William R. Johnson, a well-respected owner known as “Napoleon of the Turf,” and prepared for his racing career in the Roanoke River region of North Carolina.
As a matter of fact, the son of Diomed had a relatively brief racing career, with five wins from eight starts. But that was in large part because his owner could find no competition for the horse. Eventually, he was purchased for $5,000 by North Carolina Gov. William R. Davie, himself a Revolutionary War hero, who retired Sir Archey to stud. He went on to become one of the most successful stallions in U.S. history, with some 400 progeny, and is considered by many experts to be the “foundation sire of the American thoroughbred.”
Horse Race Tracks in North Carolina
- The Pinehurst Harness Track
- The Tryon Block House
Currently, North Carolina has harness racing in a few locations and an annual charity steeplechase near Charlotte. The professional thoroughbred racing industry is not in business in North Carolina.
There are currently no legal horse betting options in North Carolina. Only in-person sports wagering and betting on horse races at the state’s tribal casinos are approved.
No, the minimum gambling age for visitors at North Carolina tribal gaming spaces is 21. North Carolinians who are 18 or above can participate only in lottery and raffles.
Pari-mutuel horse betting is legal in North Carolina at tribal casinos such as Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain or Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Hotel & Casino in Murphy.