There’s plenty of horse racing in Utah, just not the betting kind.
Utah’s laws against gambling are arguably the broadest in the nation (with Hawaii its sole rival for the title). In large part due to the influence of the Mormon Church in state government. They bar citizens from betting anything of value on the outcome of a contest, game, scheme, or gaming device.
Violation of the law is considered a Class B misdemeanor in the Beehive States and the possible penalty – up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine – would certainly sting. In other words, no playing the lottery, no casino gambling or sports betting, and certainly no wagering on horse races, either in person or online.
That doesn’t mean you can’t stage races, though, and the hardy Utah horsepeople have been doing so for more than a century.
A number of so-called “bush tracks” up and down the state conduct racing throughout the summer, with the entrants running only for purse money generated through sponsorships, entry and nomination fees, and admission tickets. Most of these short meets are for quarter horses these days.
The state’s small racing operations also travel to neighboring states with races supported by legal parimutuel wagering to make ends meet.
Fun fact about horse racing in Utah
In an account of the 1911 construction of one of the state’s earliest racetracks, the Lagoon Racetrack in Farmington, the widow of the track’s founder, Milton Hess, said that when her husband began laying out the track, he discovered six graves. It was later determined that three of them belonged to William O. Smith, one of Farmington’s first settlers, and two of his children.
After Smith’s surviving family rejected an offer to move the graves to a nearby cemetery, “Milton suggested they move the racing track farther to the east, leaving the graves unmolested and inside the track so the horses wouldn’t be running over them,” Hess’ widow, Margaret, was quoted as saying in the account published online by the Lagoon History Project. “This plan was followed and the graves are still there.”
Horse Race Tracks in Utah
- Laurel Brown Race Track in South Jordan
- Weber Downs in Ogden
Horse racing venues in Utah are not permitted to accept bets. Off-track betting locations (OTBs) are also not allowed.
Utah does not allow online horse wagering. Pari-mutuel betting is also forbidden.
No, OTB is illegal in Utah. There are no off-track racebook parlors.
No, you don’t. All horse racing betting is strictly prohibited in Utah.