Off Track Betting

As the name suggests, ‘off track betting’ is simply sanctioned betting that takes place somewhere other than a horse race track.  For many years the only place to bet on horse racing was at the track itself.  Today, the overwhelming majority of betting action comes from off track betting and simulcast wagering.


While there’s always been illegal bookmakers that took action on horse races legal off track betting (OTB for short) is a relatively modern phenomenon.  Until the early 1970’s the only place in the country that offered legal OTB betting was Nevada casinos.  In 1970 after much legal and political wrangling off track betting was legalized in New York City.  The OTB parlors were an immediate hit and by the 1980’s had become ubiquitous in the city with over 200 locations.  Initially, they weren’t popular with race track ownership interests since it siphoned off revenue from the track itself.  After awhile, however, the racing industry began to realize the changing marketplace and brokered a deal for revenue sharing with OTB and simulcast facilities.


Other states in the US and Canada have followed suit in offering OTB betting.  That’s been supplemented by an explosion in legal simulcasting at racetracks nationwide and online via a variety of betting platforms.  Curiously, the one place that off track betting hasn’t thrived is New York City—the OTB there went out of business in 2010 due to an inability to turn a profit which had to do more with political cronyism and mismanagement than anything else.


Off track betting is a worldwide industry—in Canada the biggest OTB marketplace is Ontario with 70 off track outlets in the province.  In Europe the biggest marketplace is England, a country that has long been comfortable with the concept of legal betting on horse racing and sports.  The English call it ‘Off course betting’ but its widely available at the many bookmaking shops throughout the country.


Technology is doing a big part in rendering off track betting locations irrelevant.  Now the horse race betting enthusiast has a myriad of options no matter where they live.  With countless options for online betting a player can bet on races from all over the world from anywhere in the world.  In fact, the best online race books offer more amenities than live simulcasting facilities including news updates, handicapping and statistical information and live race video from tracks all over the world.

Some books even offer mobile wagering via tablets and smartphones.  This affords the bettor the same variety of wagering options at tracks all over the world and in some cases the same informational resources and live race video.  With this type of betting access a player can bet on races while they’re ‘on the go’ from anywhere and everywhere.


In fact, the overwhelming majority of the future growth in the off track betting industry could be best described as ‘off off track betting’.  While there are still viable off track facilities throughout North America the future is clearly online and via mobile phones and tablets.  It’s a ‘win win’ for everyone involved.  The players get greater variety with more convenience while the bookmakers are able to offer more betting options with less overhead.  This trend is already sweeping the horse racing industry in Asia and Europe though it has been hampered in the United States by short slighted regulators and politicians looking to protect deep pocketed contributors in the racing and casino gaming industries.