Iowa Horse Betting Guide
Iowa offers legal off-track betting (OTB) and advance-deposit wagering (ADW) inside many of the state’s licensed casinos and lone greyhound racetrack, Iowa Greyhound Park at Q Casino.
You can also bet on horse racing across the US with one of the top Iowa mobile sports betting apps.
Below is an overview of horse racing and betting in Iowa. We include all you need to know to bet on the ponies online and in person — including at Prairie Meadows Casino and Racetrack.
How Does Online Horse Betting Work?
Iowa has a rich horse racing history that began in the late 19th century. In the Midwest, most of the racing was standardbred harness racing.
Jump to the present day, and now, you can bet on horse races from around the world right here in Iowa, on your computer or mobile device.
Sign up for an account on one of Iowa’s legal sports betting apps and deposit funds. You can then browse through the horse betting race menu, find a race to bet on, and you’re golden.
Popular Types of Bets in Horse Racing
Here’s a look at the basic bets and exotics wagers available in Iowa:
- Win: Pick a horse to win the race.
- Place: Pick a horse to win or finish second.
- Show: Pick a horse to win, finish second, or third.
- Exacta: Pick two horses to finish first and second in that order.
- Trifecta: Pick three horses to finish first, second and third in that order.
- Superfecta: Pick four horses to finish first, second, third and fourth in that order.
What is a boxed bet?
Exacta, trifecta, and superfecta bets can all be “boxed.” This bet type is akin to placing additional wagers on various combinations of finishing order for the same number of horses. If your bet wins, you get paid at the same odds, but boxing is more costly.
What is a wheel bet?
You can also “wheel” your exacta, trifecta, and superfecta bets. This bet involves “keying” or fixing the finishing position of certain horses. You can put your wager together in multiple combinations, including adding different horses and changing their finishing positions.
How Horse Racing Odds Work
Morning odds will be set for every horse running by the track hosting the race.
Tracks will consider everything from the horse’s previous record to the jockey and trainer’s reputation and how likely the public is to bet on the horse. Once those morning odds are out, the rest is up to the public. The horse betting odds will fluctuate ahead of the race and settle at post time.
Unlike traditional sports betting, you don’t lock in the odds on a horse when you place a bet. Instead, winning bets are paid out at post-time odds, which are determined by the amount bet on each horse relative to how much is bet on the others in the race.
If the public is betting heavily on one horse, that will significantly lower the odds on that horse. Low-to-no betting drives the odds upward.
The pari-mutuel betting system
Pari-mutuel betting is a pooled betting system. It involves pooling all bets of a certain type together, removing a “vig” for the house, and paying out the rest to all winning bets by a share price or odds. The share price or odds are determined by the amount bet on each outcome of an event relative to how much is bet on the other possible outcomes in the event.
For example, all the money bet on the horse to win the Preakness Stakes goes into the same pool. The house takes its share, and the rest is paid to anyone who bets on the Preakness winner. The amount is determined by the price of the wager and how much was bet on that horse compared to the others.
How to Claim Bonuses at Horse Betting Sites
At most sportsbooks, new users can get bonus funds to bet on any race you like when you sign up for an account and make a deposit. Check out the promotions each sportsbook offers when signing up.
Once you’re registered, you’ll also be eligible to take part in other promos the sportsbook offers.
How to Open a Horse Betting Account and Deposit Funds
Anyone 18 years or older can open an account and bet on local and simulcast races online. Opening an account with an online sportsbook requires only a minimal amount of personal information, including your:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Date of birth
- Current address
Once you have an account, most sportsbooks allow you to deposit money to bet with using any one of the available deposit options, including:
- Debit card
- Credit card
- PayNearMe (7-Eleven, CVS, Family Dollar stores)
- Green Dot/MoneyPak (CVS, Walgreens)
- Gift card
- Wire transfer
- Money orders or checks
How to cash out a winning bet
When you bet on a horse race at the window or a self-service betting kiosk at a track or OTB, you get a ticket. If your bet wins, you can take that ticket to the window or kiosk and cash it.
However, it works a little differently online. Online sportsbooks involve account wagering, and that means there are no tickets. Your current bets will be listed in your account. If any of your bets win, the money will automatically be deposited into your account. That happens almost immediately after a race result is declared final. You can turn any money in your account into cash by making a withdrawal.
Most of the time, you can make withdrawals using the same method you used to make a deposit. If that’s not available, the online sportsbook will set you up with another method or send you a check in the mail.
What Types of Horse Races Can I Bet On?
There are three types of horse races you can bet on in the US: Thoroughbred, standardbred (harness) and quarter horse.
- Thoroughbred: Jockey-ridden horses running middle-distance races out of a starting gate.
- Standardbred (harness): Horses pull two-wheeled jockey-driven carts with a running start.
- Quarter Horse: Jockey-ridden horses running a sprint.
Major Horse Racing Events to Bet On in Iowa
Here is a look at the major events in the horse racing world:
Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing
- Kentucky Derby: The first leg of the Triple Crown is held on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
- Preakness Stakes: The second leg of the Triple Crown is held on the third Saturday in May, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, at the Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.
- Belmont Stakes: Third and final leg of the Triple Crown is held three weeks after the Preakness at Belmont Park in New York.
- Breeders’ Cup: Held in the fall, it includes 14 races over two days with $31 million in purses. The Breeders’ marks the end of the North American thoroughbred racing season and world championship. It also features the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the richest race in North America.
- Dubai World Cup: One of the biggest prize pools of any race meet. The Cup is held at Meydan Racecourse in the Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates and features top global thoroughbred talent.
- Saudi Cup: Now the richest horse race in the world, it is held at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a purse of $20 million and $10 million reserved for the winner.
Where Can I Watch Live Horse Racing Online?
You can watch live streams or horse races from tracks around the US and beyond with some online sportsbook apps. Most video streaming is free when you have a wagering account with these apps. Click the “Live Streaming” tab to tune in; feeds are usually available for most US and some international tracks. Most of these apps also offer analysis, live odds, handicapping picks, and tips.
5 Horse Betting Tips for Beginners
If you’re new to betting on the ponies, try these five tips for beginners:
- Stick to the Straights: Win, place and show bets are easy to understand and the best bets for beginners.
- Bet the Minimum: Keep it cheap by betting the $2 minimum on a couple of horses in a couple of races.
- Don’t Bet on Every Race: You don’t have to bet on every single race in the program. Instead, scour that program for the best bets ahead of time and focus your betting on those horses.
- Set a Budget: Set a betting budget and stick to it. Make sure it’s an amount you can afford to lose, and once it’s done, so are you.
- Get a Sportsbook App: Most sportsbook apps aren’t just online betting portals and places to watch live-streamed races. They are filled with all kinds of info, including handicapping picks and tips you can use to help guide your betting. Like all wagering, horse betting is a war of information, and you’ll find everything you need with these apps.
More on Horse Racing in Iowa
Iowa has just one horse racing venue. Prairie Meadows has live and simulcast racing with pari-mutuel wagering and a casino.
The track opened in Altoona in 1989 and lost money until off-track betting, slots, and the full-service casino launched. Polk County owns the facility and profits benefit community schemes in the Des Moines area. The racetrack has a 1-mile dirt track with a chute for quarter horses. Live racing is held from April to October.
The casino has more than 1,900 slots and table games, including roulette, blackjack, and poker. Close to 3 million people visit annually.
- 1 Prairie Meadows Drive, Altoona; 515-967-1000
Iowa also has a greyhound racing facility in Dubuque with simulcast horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering:
- 1855 Greyhound Park Road, Dubuque; 563-582-3647
Several Iowa casinos are also OTB locations with simulcast horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering, including:
- 3001 Winegard Drive, Burlington; 319-237-1200
- 1 Harrah’s Blvd., Council Bluffs; 712-329-6000
- 2200 River Road, Council Bluffs; 712-328-8882
- 2701 23rd Ave., Council Bluffs; 712-323-2500
- 400 E. Third St., Dubuque; 563-690-4800
Wild Rose casinos
- 777 Wild Rose Drive, Clinton; 563-243-9000
- 701 E. Main St., Emmetsburg; 712-852-3400
- 777 Wild Rose Drive, Jefferson; 515-386-7777
- 100 Anti-Monopoly St., Marquette; 563-873-3531
- 777 Casino Drive, Osceola; 641-342-9511