Legal Horse Betting in Illinois

Racetracks, OTBs and online betting options
horse racing in illinois

Outside of taking in horse races as a spectator, betting on the outcome is one of the most popular ways to engage with horse racing. Illinois is home to thoroughbred, quarter horse and harness racing.

You can legally bet on horses in Illinois. You can also wager at two tracks, several OTB sites or through legal horse betting apps.

How to wager on horse racing in Illinois

Around the Prairie State, there are plenty of ways to bet on horse races. Not everyone in Illinois has a horse racetrack nearby. However, they still have a choice of convenient horse betting options. You can bet:

  • At the track: Illinois is home to two live racetracks — Hawthorne Racecourse and FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing — all have betting windows on-site.
  • Online: Several legal online racebooks including FanDuel Racing happily accept wagers from bettors in Illinois.
  • OTBs: That’s an acronym for off-track betting and these parlors are in several Illinois cities.

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If you don’t live close to a live racetrack or OTB betting parlor, betting online can save you some travel. Even if there is a horse racetrack near you, you can opt to place horse wagers online. One of the best parts of online horse racing in Illinois is that multiple mobile racebooks operate here. Thus, you can shop for the best horse betting bonuses and odds.

Illinois horse wagering rules

The Illinois Racing Board has a comprehensive list of horse betting rules available online. Here are the main points:

  • It’s only legal to wager with a racebook licensed by the Illinois Racing Board (IRB).
  • You must be at least 18 years old to place a bet on horses.
  • Illinois typically requires a minimum horse bet of $2, although some exotic wagers are available for just $1.
  • The minimum payout at each racetrack is $2.10 on every winning $2 bet in the state.

Also, if you’re unsure about any of the rules, you can submit an inquiry to the IRB via the email address: [email protected].

All online racebooks operating legally in IL will require you to register for a horse betting account online before you can wager. It is necessary to prove you are of legal age and not on any gambling self-exclusion lists. It’s also vital to combat money laundering and other forms of organized crime.

When you register your betting account, you’ll need to provide the racebook with the following information:

  • Legal name
  • Mailing address
  • Email address
  • Date of birth
  • Last four digits of your Social Security number (for verification)

You will also have to enable location services on your device to verify your physical location within Illinois state lines when you place your wagers. In some cases, you might have to download new software because IL racebooks operate within laws and regulations set by each state. Additionally, there are federal prohibitions against gambling outside of legal horse betting state lines.

The FanDuel Racing app & other online horse betting options

Some IL racebooks, like FanDuel Racing, offer mobile apps. You can conduct your business with the book using that horse betting app, from registration to cashing out your wins.

FanDuel Racing is among the top online racebooks for several reasons. FanDuel Racing’s app or website allows users to bet on and watch live racing from over 150 tracks worldwide. There are promos and bonuses at FanDuel Racing. In addition, app users can take advantage of exclusive content that will enrich their knowledge of horses, jockeys, and trainers.

Other licensed horse racebooks in Illinois include:

  • TVG
  • Club Hawthorne
  • NYRA Bets
  • TwinSpires
  • XpressBet

Popular types of horse race betting

Most bettors dream of hitting a big payday on an unlikely winner. However, the odds of getting a massive payout on a straight bet are not great. Fortunately, that isn’t the only way to bet on horse races in Illinois. The menu of horse wagers in Illinois includes:

  • Exacta: This type of bet asks you to pick the top two horses in a race in the correct order.
  • Place: Stake one horse in this type of horse wager. If it finishes first or second, you win.
  • Show: This works similar to a “place” wager, except you also win if the horse you choose finishes third as well.
  • Superfecta: For the daring bettor, winning here requires your accurate ranking of the top four horses in the race.
  • Trifecta: An exacta bet “plus one;” you need to pick the top three horses in the exact order to win.
  • Win: Precisely what this horse bet sounds like; you try to predict which horse will win the race.

What is a horse box bet?

Additionally, you can opt to “boxyour bet, which means you put down money on all the possible outcomes in a bet that covers the top two, three or even four horses in a race. Box bets are a way to hedge your wager and increase your likelihood of seeing some return. However, you’ll pay for that diminished risk in a more expensive stake.

What is a horse wheel bet?

Another way to shake things up is a “wheelbet. This wager involves picking a horse to finish in a certain place. Then, choose any of the other horses to finish second. For example, you could pick a horse to finish first then wheel the second place with the other horses in the race. As long as the horse you picked to win does so, you already know another horse will finish second so that you would win.

These types of wagers can give you a better return if you’re confident about one horse in one place but not feeling so sure about the rest of the field. Again, you’ll pay for the better odds of winning, though.

What is a long shot in horse race betting?

The simple term “long shot” means a horse that is unlikely to place highly in a race. Oddsmakers use a lot of information to set their favorites, which includes:

  • The horse’s recent performances
  • Performances on similar tracks
  • The jockey’s reputation
  • The trainer’s reputation
  • Weather conditions

Long shots afford better payouts if they do pull off upsets but, as previously stated, are unlikely to do so given the available data.

How do horse racing odds work?

Most racebooks use a pari-mutuel wagering system instead of fixed odds. These two systems differ in a couple of ways. First off, your “opponent” in your horse bet isn’t the racebook; the racebook has no stake in your wager. It simply takes a percentage for facilitating the betting. Instead, your “opponent” in the betting is yourself.

The money for winning bets comes from the entire pot of all wagers placed on the same race. So, if you place a winning bet, your payout is not only your stake back but also some of the money from those who placed different bets and lost. For that reason, the dollar amount of the bets in the pot, the number of bets placed and which horse(s) the field of bettors like the most will determine the odds.

In fixed-odds wagering, the racebook would not only have a stake in your wager, but it would set the odds before the race based on which horse it thinks will win.

How to decipher fractional odds?

Most racebooks list their odds in fractional form, like 5/1. Translated to American odds, that would be +500. A basic rule of thumb is that the greater the first number is than the second number (reading left to right), the longer the odds are that the associated horse will win. Determining your potential payout in a pari-mutuel system is identical to doing the same with fixed odds, though. In this instance, if you staked $100 and this horse won, your total payout would be $600 (your $100 bet back, plus $500 in profit).

Triple Crown betting in Illinois

Although Illinois isn’t home to any of the Triple Crown races, these events each year are still the pinnacle of the sport for both horse bettors and fans. For that reason, many of the live tracks and OTBs in Illinois will have special events around them. Additionally, the online racebooks typically reserve some of their best bonuses for these events. You’ll also find the most information on horses that are part of the fields for these races as well.

Betting on the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby typically happens on the first Saturday in May every year and is the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Derby takes place in Louisville at its namesake dirt track, 10 furlongs (1.25 miles). The usual field size is 20 horses, which are usually 3-year-old thoroughbreds. Because the event takes place in Kentucky instead of Illinois, IL bettors will see a few nuance differences in their wagering activity instead of when they are betting on races that happen in the state. Mainly, that involves tax rates on winnings that differ from Illinois to Kentucky.

Betting on the Preakness Stakes

Usually, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the second leg of the Triple Crown takes place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The Preakness Stakes is slightly shorter, at 9 furlongs (1 3/16 miles). The field is also smaller at just 14 horses. Again, the race is typically run by 3-year-old thoroughbreds. If the winner of the Kentucky Derby is in the field for the Preakness, it is not uncommon for that horse to be the favorite in this race, especially if the horse won the Derby easily. However, there’s no guarantee that the horse will be the favorite because the field of contenders can change significantly from the Derby to the Preakness.

Betting on the Belmont Stakes

The final leg of the Triple Crown happens at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The expected date is three weeks after the Preakness, again on a Saturday. The Belmont Stakes track is the longest of the three legs at 12 furlongs (1.5 miles). Again, 3-year-old thoroughbreds typically compose the field. True to the pattern, the field of horses can change from the Preakness as well. The field can be as large as 12, although it’s typical for the field to be smaller. If a horse has won the Derby and the Preakness, that horse will be among the top contenders in the odds.

What types of horse races are in Illinois?

In Illinois, you’ll find three distinct types of races for horses. These vary in the attributes of the horses and the details of the tracks, along with the rules of the race. Tracks around Illinois offer these various types of racing according to their facilities and interest.

  • Harness Racing: Also called standardbred racing, this has become known as harness racing because the horses pull a cart with the driver called a sulky. Horses typically trot or pace in races that are normally contested over a mile.
  • Quarter Horse Racing: Originally given this name because the track is a quarter-of-a-mile, the horses in this type of race usually are fast starters who can sprint for short distances at great speeds but lack stamina. Jockeys are mounted on horses’ backs in these races.
  • Thoroughbred Racing: The type is the most common form of horse racing. These tracks are usually longer in the distance and jockeys are mounted on the horses. The name initially came from the excellent care given to breeding the horses still part of the sport today.

Where can I watch live horse racing in Illinois?

The two Illinois racetracks welcome bettors and fans throughout their seasons with several amenities, including beverage and food service, VIP seating, and simulcasting for races that take place elsewhere.

FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing

Formerly known as Fairmount Park, FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing purchased this property in 2019, so it could get a sports betting license in Illinois. The action hasn’t missed a beat since, giving horse racing fans in the greater St. Louis area an option for live races.

  • Address: 9301 Collinsville Road, Collinsville
  • Contact Info: 618-345-4300. Dining reservations and tickets are available online.
  • Schedule: Live races at FanDuel typically happen on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from late April through late September. The first post is at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, then at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Type of Racing: Thoroughbred flat racing is available live. Simulcast racing is also available at the property under FanDuel’s license.

Hawthorne Race Course

In the Chicago suburbs, Hawthorne Race Course offers a busy schedule of racing action — both thoroughbred and standardbred — year-round. For bettors and fans who prefer an emphasis on the variety and volume of live events, this is a fantastic venue.

  • Address: 3501 S. Laramie, Cicero
  • Contact Info: 708-780-7050. Reservations for group outings and tickets are available online.
  • Schedule: Weekends are full, with live races at Hawthorne on at least Saturdays and Sundays, if not Fridays throughout the entire year. The first post is typically at 6:30 p.m. on race days.
  • Type of Racing: This track offers both harness racing and thoroughbred racing. Simulcast racing is available during the week and wagering is available via both the in-house Club Hawthorne and XpressBet brands.

OTBs near you in Illinois

There are several off-track betting parlors in Illinois, although the law allows for more than 40. All are affiliated with one of the state’s live tracks and offer pari-mutuel wagering on the track’s races and action via simulcast betting as well. While the tracks are split between two of the bigger metropolitan areas in the state, the OTBs are more evenly distributed. Thus, people in rural areas of Illinois have better access to OTB betting parlors than tracks. Among this list, you’ll hopefully find one close to you.

FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing OTBs

  1. Capital Teletrack: 1766 Wabash Ave., Springfield, IL 62704
  2. Mac’s Downtown OTB: 315 Belle St., Alton, IL 62002
  3. Route 3 OTB: 2400 Mississippi Ave., Sauget, IL 62201

Hawthorne Race Course OTBs

  1. Bookie Magee’s: 2450 Jefferson St., Joliet, IL 60435
  2. Club Hawthorne Bloomington Normal: 1304 Cross Creek Drive., Bloomington Normal, IL  61761
  3. Club Hawthorne Chicago – Corliss OTB: 11203 South Corliss, Chicago, IL 60628
  4. Club Hawthorne at Crazy Pour: 105 E. North Ave., Villa Park, IL 60181
  5. Club Hawthorne Crestwood OTB: 13148 Rivercrest Dr, Crestwood, IL 60445
  6. Club Hawthorne at the Saddle Room: 2559 Pratum Ave., Hoffman Estates, IL 60192
  7. Club Hawthorne Lansing: 17030 Torrence Ave., Lansing, IL 60438
  8. Club Hawthorne McHenry: 621 Ridgeview Drive., McHenry, IL 60050
  9. Club Hawthorne Peoria: 3225 N. Dries Lane, Peoria, IL 61604
  10. Club Hawthorne at Post Time Sports Bar & Grille: 13860 Rockland Road, Green Oaks, IL 60048 (coming soon)
  11. Club Hawthorne at The Piazza: 85 Executive Drive, Aurora, IL 60504
  12. Club Hawthorne at The Turf Room: 650 Randall Crossing Lane, North Aurora, IL 60542
  13. Club Hawthorne Oakbrook OTB: 17W648 22nd St., Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
  14. Evergreen Park: 2517 W 95th St., Evergreen Park, IL 60805
  15. Players Pub & Grill: 1250 North River Road, Prospect Heights, IL 60070
  16. Stoney Point Grill: 19031 Old Lagrange Road, Mokena, IL 60448

Who is the Illinois Racing Board?

The IRB is the governing body for horse racing in Illinois. It ensures licensees’ compliance with all regulations and statutes. The board has been around since 1933 and has oversight over any race for any prize in Illinois. That oversight guarantees fairness and integrity in the races and the betting markets set upon them.

Who is the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association?

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is essentially a nonprofit trade association for horse owners and trainers in the Land of Lincoln. The group is active at Hawthorne racecourses. In addition to advocating for horsemen’s rights, the association provides a number of other benefits and services.

History of Illinois horse racing

Although it was taking place on an informal basis for over a century prior, the state of Illinois formally legalized pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in 1975. The action came with a comprehensive set of regulations and created the Illinois Racing Board.

Hawthorne Park became the first licensed live racetrack in the state shortly thereafter, as it had been in continuous operation on the racing side since the 1880s. However, horse racing in Chicago dates back to much earlier. Records show live races in the Chicago metro area in the 1830s. It’s a safe bet that wagering was happening on these 19th-century races, albeit unregulated.

Although the past half-century has seen the closures of several other tracks in IL, the survivors have robust action and seem in a good position to keep betting on horse races in Illinois alive for decades to come.

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