Regulatory Review: Historical Horseracing in the US

Mackenzie Joyce


March 27, 2024

Historical horseracing (HHR), also known as instant racing, emerged as an alternative gambling concept in the late 1990s, in part to boost the horseracing industry and diversify gambling offerings. In this blog, we provide a summary of the legal status of HHR machines in the United States.

The Current State of Historical Horseracing

Today’s HHR machines resemble slot machines; however, the former is procedurally different. HHR machines are operated under a pari-mutuel system of wagering and use historical racing data instead of a random number generator. The historic data is randomized and anonymized, meaning that bettors cannot view the names or other identifying features of the horses or jockeys until after a wager is made. HHR machines use a combination of previously run horse races to enable players to pool bets on replays.

Arkansas was the first state to implement HHR machines at Oaklawn Park (now Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort) in 2000, following passage of a 1999 act. The most recent state to legalise pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse races was Kansas, in 2022.

States Where Historical Horseracing is Regulated

In total, eight states have established HHR as a form of pari-mutuel wagering since 1999. In these eight states, licensees of pari-mutuel wagering on HHR must adhere to age restrictions and responsible gambling measures as well as reporting, audit and inspection requirements. HHR machines are also subject to traditional slot-machine-like requirements, such as technical standards and wager and payout restrictions.

States Where Historical Horseracing is Prohibited and/or Unauthorised

On the other hand, several states have attempted and failed to legalise pari-mutuel wagering on HHR, whether through the legislative process, regulator authorization, or state ballot measures. Historically, any attempt to stretch the meaning of pari-mutuel wagering through the use of HHR machines has been met with scrutiny and opposition. In a handful of states, attorneys general have issued formal opinions in cases of doubt or uncertainty.

Consequently, HHR is prohibited and/or unauthorized as a form of pari-mutuel wagering in 11 states. In late February 2024, state attorneys general in Louisiana and Arizona issued opinions on the legality of HHR machines, adding to the growing number of states that prohibit or regard HHR as unconstitutional.

Want to know more?

This blog gives you a small glimpse of what’s inside our Regulatory Review report, which examines the legal status of HHR machines in the United States and provides an overview of the applicable regulatory framework in states where such machines are legal and subject to regulation. The Regulatory Review also summarizes various states’ attempts to formally recognise pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse races as well as attorneys general opinions on the illegality of such wagering.

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