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 best known of these sites include BetAmerica, TVG and 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:
TVG is a familiar brand to millions of horse racing fans across the US. This TV channel has the most prominent horse racing coverage anywhere. You’ll be able to watch the races via streaming while you bet on the pari-mutuel pools at TVG online.
Coverage is vast, with coverage of more than 100 domestic tracks, plus the more prominent international horse racing fixtures.
The welcome bonus at TVG offers a generous 100% matched wager up to $200 using the promo code FALL1. Place your first wager and the whole amount you bet will be put right back into your account if you lose your bet.
As well as the coverage of live races, TVG hosts a comprehensive stats library, which will help you choose your wagers wisely.
BetAmerica is making moves to expand from horse racing betting into full pro sports betting. It is one of many brands that could request licenses in Tennessee once the licensing framework completes.
You can bet on horses via BetAmerica right now. This site offers a broad range of bets options for nearly every track in the US, the UK, Europe and beyond. You can access BetAmerica either via its responsive website or dedicated smartphone apps.
Past performance data is a big attraction at this site. BetAmerica’s database can give you an edge in making your horse betting selections. Past performance data is free as long as you are betting on the fixture of said race.
New bettors at BetAmerica get a $100 welcome deposit match. The new player bonus will clear into the cash account at 10% of all wagers you place. As a BetAmerica customer, you will enjoy the VIP loyalty program and the robust promotions page.
TwinSpires gets its name from the famous landmark at the Churchill Downs Racetrack, which is home of the infamous Kentucky Derby. It has been running since 2006 and has become an established and trusted brand.
New players receive a $100 welcome bonus at TwinSpires, which they receive in increments based on the value of bets you place, rather than a match to your first deposit.
For example, you get $20 for every $100 in wagering during your first 30 days. You only need to bet $500 to claim the full amount.
TwinSpires features regular odds boost promos and a loyalty scheme, which involves accumulating TSC Elite points.
Betting is not limited to Kentucky venues; you can bet on pools at tracks across the country, plus many international fixtures at TwinSpires.
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 including BetAmerica, TwinSpires and TVG, 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.