California Race Tracks

Horse racing in California was legalized by a voter referendum held in 1933. This referendum amended the constitution, allowing the legislature to “provide for the regulation of horse races (…) and wagering on the results.”

Authority over horse racing-related matters, including breeding, tax revenues, and pari-mutuel betting, was given to the California Horse Racing Board. General regulations on controlled games, such as poker or Pai Gow, don’t apply to horse race betting as per California Penal Code Section 337j.

The minimum age for pari-mutuel betting in California is 18.

Horse race betting fact sheet:

Legal oversight:California Horse Racing Board
On-site betting:Yes
Off-track betting:Yes
Online betting:Third-party platforms and racetrack apps
Betting on out-of-state races:Yes

California race tracks

California grew to be one of the largest racing hubs in the United States. Those racetracks that hold extended racing meets, such as Cal Expo, Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields, Los Alamitos, and Santa Anita, are now known nationwide and generate millions of dollars in annual revenue.

The remaining fairground tracks hold shorter meets in the summer and fall. These meets typically last up to two weeks. Over the years, there have been a few pushes to introduce slots and other gaming machines to California race tracks, but none of those attempts were successful.

The 2004 measure to allow for banking games and slot machines at the biggest facilities failed by 83.8% statewide, which demonstrates that Californians don’t want their race tracks to turn into Delaware-style racinos.

Off-track betting

Off-track betting in California is available at 27 satellite facilities, which are all located in the south and central parts of the state. Some of these simulcast venues are small and can be compared to a pub in size, while others, like the San Mateo Events Center, are large and can pack a small crowd inside.

Unfortunately, California doesn’t run any legal online betting sites. If you want to bet your money on a horse, you need to do it on-site or at a licensed off-track betting facility.

Online betting

California residents can engage in advance deposit wagering through several legal third-party platforms, such as TVG, TwinSpires, XpressBet, BetAmerica, WatchandWager, Bbspot Racing, and Nyra Bets. These platforms are officially recognized by the California Horse Racing Board and are listed on its website.

From a technical standpoint, these platforms are just as capable as offshore betting sites. Their customers can put their money on out-of-state races, they offer deposit bonuses and promotions for returning patrons, and they’re compatible with modern mobile devices. Most of them also offer live video streaming services to paying customers.

In addition, individual California race tracks are permitted to offer betting services over the internet as long as they employ geolocation. For example, the Del Mar Mobile App allows users to place wagers while on-track, but this functionality is disabled elsewhere. The app is also useful off-track as its features include on-demand race replays, live odds, betting calculators, and more.