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Betting on a Horse Race? Know These 5 Legal Facts

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Want to play the ponies at the Kentucky Derby or at a racetrack closer to home? If so, knowing some general horse-betting laws can pay off.

Betting on horses is one of America's oldest forms of gambling. But before you sip your mint julep and place your bet, check out these five legal facts about betting on horse races:

1. Betting Age Varies by State.

If you've traveled to the Bluegrass State to bet on your favorite steed, you may want to check the betting age. In Kentucky, the gambling age for betting on horse races is 18 -- but in many other states, the minimum age is 21. In states like Texas, children under a certain age may not even be allowed to visit the race track, much less bet on horses.

This age may vary specifically for horse racing as opposed to other forms of gambling, like the lottery, so much sure to check your state's laws.

Even if you can't make it to Churchill Downs (or a less famous racetrack), you may be able to place bets on an out-of-state horse race that's being simulcast at a betting facility in your state. Most states allow this sort of simulcast betting on out-of-state horse races, but there may be issues with federal law.

The federal Interstate Horsing Act may allow "horseman's groups" to say "neigh" to simulcast wagering even when the state has said "yes."

3. You'll Owe Taxes on Winnings.

If you make the bet of a lifetime on "Seabiscuit," you'll still have to report those winnings on your taxes. Each state deals with taxing betting income from horse racing differently, but make no mistake, it is reportable income. You can attempt to write off your losses as well, but you can only claim your net losses.

4. You Don't Necessary Have to Cash In Immediately.

Wanna save up your racing stubs for a while? In some states, you don't have to cash your ticket in immediately. For example in Illinois, you have at least a year until tickets expire. Don't tempt fate by waiting too long though.

5. Lost Ticket? Too Bad.

Imagine this scenario: You just won a bit racing bet, but the wind knocks your pork pie hat off. While reaching down to grab it, your ticket flutters away. Typically there isn't any legal remedy for a lost racing ticket, and the odds of it returning are pretty slim.

Hopefully these tips will help you not lose your luck (or your shirt) the next time you bet on a horse race.

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