Texas residents can wager on horse races at the state’s three racetracks and a couple of other bricks-and-mortar racing facilities, but online betting remains illegal in the Lone Star State.
With no legal online wagering, many Texas horseplayers turn to so-called offshore betting websites. These sites often offer attractive bonuses and rewards programs, but they also come with a built-in downside: If there is a dispute, players have no legal recourse because the sites operate outside the reach of U.S. or state regulators. That’s usually not a problem, but it’s worth knowing going in.
You must be 21 or older to place online horse bets in Texas.
Texas Horse Betting Overview
Despite the state’s Wild West roots, Texas gambling laws are on the restrictive end of the U.S. spectrum, with parimutuel wagering on horse and dog racing, a state lottery, and pull-tabs the only legal games of chance. The state also is home to several tribal casinos that offer limited gaming options like bingo, poker, and slot-like machines.
Texas authorized parimutuel wagering in 1933, only to repeal it four years later. It took another 50 years for voters to restore it in 1987.
Legal betting on quarter horses and thoroughbreds is available at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie (just west of Dallas); Sam Houston Race Park in Houston; and Retama Park in Selma, outside San Antonio.
The Gillespie County Fair Grounds, about 50 miles northwest of San Antonio, also typically hosts eight days of mixed thoroughbred and quarter horse racing over four summers. The Los Palmas Race Park in Mission, near McAllen in south Texas, also hosts quarter horse racing on select dates. Both offer off-track betting on horse racing when they are not conducting live racing.
The state also allows wagering on dog racing, but all three greyhound racing facilities in Texas – Gulf Coast Racing in Corpus Christi; Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque; and Valley Race Park in Harlingen – appear to be out of business as of this writing in late 2021.
Fun fact about horse racing in Texas
They say everything’s big in Texas, but one ranching operation in the state made not one, but two giant contributions to horse racing. The King Ranch, an 825,000-acre behemoth in Kleberg County, is and always has been mainly a cattle ranch. But it is also widely credited as the birthplace of the American quarter horse, resulting in a breed improvement program in pairings of native mustangs and imported breeds. Using the same techniques with thoroughbreds, the King operation produced 1946 Triple Crown-winning racehorse Assault as well as Middleground, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes four years later.
Popular horse racing events to bet on in Texas
- Steve Sexton Mile
- Texas Futurity
- The Kentucky Derby
- Belmont Stakes
- Preakness Stakes
- Breeders’ Cup
- Royal Ascot
- Cheltenham Festival
- Travers Stakes
- Santa Anita Handicap
- Arkansas Derby
- Pacific Classic Stakes
- Haskell Invitational
- Dubai World Cup
- Melbourne Cup
- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
- Grand National
Horse Race Tracks in Texas
- Sam Houston Race Park
- Retama Park
- Lone Star Park
- Los Palmas Race Park
- Gillespie County Fairgrounds
- Bandera Downs (closed in 1995)
- Trinity Meadows (closed in 1996)
- Manor Downs (closed in 2010)
Of the state’s three major racetracks, Sam Houston Race Park is the oldest, having opened on April 24, 1994. Located just 15 miles from downtown Houston, the track will host an expanded 50-day thoroughbred meet from Jan. 6 through April 9 in 2022, followed by a quarter horse meet from April 22 through June 18.
Retama Park opened the following year in Selma, about 15 miles northeast of San Antonio. The track generally runs thoroughbred and quarter-horse races, but its 2021 meet was disrupted by a winter storm that damaged the track. In 2022, it is scheduled to hold a quarter horse-only meet from June 30 through Aug. 20.
The track does offer a mobile betting service known as mBet, though it only works within the confines of the facility.
Lone Star Park, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, is the latest arrival on the Texas racing scene, opening on April 17, 1997.
It’s also the state’s grandest venue, being the only Texas racetrack ever to host the Breeders’ Cup.
Lone Star Park’s signature thoroughbred race is the Steve Sexton Mile, a Grade 3 race for 3-year-olds and older that carried a $400,000 purse in 2021. It is typically run in late May.
The track typically hosts thoroughbred racing from early April to mid-July, and a quarter horse meet extending from early September to mid-November.
It also hosts numerous graded stakes for quarter horses, topped by the $1 million Texas Futurity, a Grade 1 race typically contested in November at 400 yards.
No. Live racing and off-track betting have a minimum Texas gambling age of 21 years old.
Texas does not allow online horse wagering. But you can bet on greyhounds and horse racing at Texas Racetracks in person.
No, TVG Horse Racing no longer operates in the state.
Yes, OTB is legal in Texas. The Gillespie E.g. County Fair Grounds in Fredericksburg and The Los Palmas Race Park in Mission offer off-track-betting on horse racing as well as some other simulcast facilities in the state.