In the late 1800s, Tennessee started to develop a rich horse racing industry similar to its neighbor state, Kentucky.
Even though Tennessee is one of the few places with its own breed, the Tennessee Walking Horse, horse racing no longer takes place there.
It all went away in 1906.
This was a puritanical time for many states, and gambling was being outlawed almost everywhere. Unfortunately, the Volunteer State not only gave up its lead in horse racing then, it killed racing altogether. There aren’t any tracks, and there aren’t any off-track betting (OTB) facilities in the state.
Fast-forward to today, and some legislative efforts are working to bring horse racing back. There are now opportunities to bet online, using federal advance deposit wagering (ADW) laws at dedicated horse racing betting sites.
If you go back far enough, you’ll find a rich history of horse racing in Tennessee. In the 1840s, some of the first thoroughbreds (direct descendants of English stock) were racing on dirt roads.
This period included the famous race when Polly Medley beat then-champion Indian Queen. These horses would go on to become critical elements of the bloodlines of many horses for more than a century.
In the heyday of Tennessee horse racing, there were 10+ major racetracks around the state. These included tracks at:
In 1853, the richest race held anywhere was the Peyton Stakes with a purse of $35,000 ($335,000+ in today’s dollars). Held at Burn’s Island track near Nashville, Peytona was the winner.
There have been attempts to revive horse racing in Tennessee. A racing commission was set up in 1987, which legalized pari-mutuel betting. After local referendums defeated proposals for tracks, this commission was put on ice and disbanded in 1998.
While Kentucky thrived and becoming the horse racing destination, Tennessee continued only with rodeos, transport horses and some breeding for races in other states.
Efforts were made to bring the horse racing commission back in 2015-16.
Then, legislation was introduced in 2019 that consisted of two bills, which looked to bring back the racing commission as a first step at reviving Tennessee horse racing.
The bills were bought forward by Rep. Joe Towns (D) and Sen. Ramesh Akbari (D).
You can bet on US horse races legally while in Tennessee. You can bet using the same pari-mutuel pools at on- and off-track facilities in other states. This method involves using websites, which operate under federal ADW laws.
The only site active in TN at the moment is TwinSpires.
They all work in the same way; you bet on races and enter into the betting pools. Winning tickets for different types of result then divide up the pooled money.
This method works in several formats ranging from simple win bets to Pick 5 wagers, which will roll over to future meetings if no one wins.
Here are the bet types available at TN online horse racing betting sites:
In those puritanical days of the early 1900s, many states banned gambling in all formats. Unfortunately, the highly regarded Tennessee horse racing industry was a direct victim of those times. The Volunteer State was considered to have the best racing in the country at the time. However, it handed that crown to Kentucky.
While legislation to revive the industry has stalled – at least some officials are trying to revive this. Recent sports betting legislation did get through, showing that changes are possible.
In the meantime, the only way for TN residents to legally bet on horses is via ADW laws. There are horse racing betting sites which allow access to the pari-mutuel pools. You will be able to bet on races, watch them live and even access advanced statistical data via past performance reports.