Michigan Horse Racing and Betting

michigan horse betting

Betting on horse racing in Michigan is a tradition that dates back more than 90 years. While racetracks have come and gone in Michigan over the decades, thanks to online horse race betting you can still bet on the biggest races such as the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

Here’s all you need to know about betting on horse racing in Michigan.

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Where to bet on horse races in Michigan

Michigan lawmakers first approved pari-mutuel betting on horse races in 1933. The Horse Racing Law of 1995 allowed Michigan racetracks to host simulcast racing across North America, and that law was amended in December 2019 to allow for online horse betting.

That means you can bet on live horse racing taking place in Michigan and across the continent at Michigan racetracks and online through licensed horse betting operators.

Michigan racetracks

Several racetracks have opened and closed over the decades in Michigan the state’s long history of horse racing. At the start of 2024, just one racetrack remained, Northville Downs. The racetrack offered live standardbred racing as well as simulcast standardbred and thoroughbred racing, and visitors could enjoy pari-mutuel wagering on all of the action.

However, in early Feb. 2024, Northville Downs ran its final race to conclude 80-plus years of racing history. Simulcast betting at the track also shut down, although those in Michigan still have online horse betting available. Currently Northville Downs is seeking a new location where it might be able to reopen in the future.

Horse racing 2024 Triple Crown schedule

The Triple Crown of horse racing includes the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Here’s this year’s schedule.

  • Kentucky Derby: Saturday, May 4
  • Preakness Stakes: Saturday, May 18
  • Belmont Stakes: Saturday, June 8

Online horse betting in Michigan

In Dec. 2019, amendments to Michigan’s Horse Racing Law of 1995 allowed online horse race betting organizations such as the country’s largest, TVG, into Michigan. The Michigan Gaming Control Board later announced in May 2020 that operators can now apply for a license to host online simulcast racing and wagering from across the US, Mexico and Canada.

In June 2020, TVG launched in Michigan. TwinSpires came aboard in September 2020, with Xpress Bet following in late Mar. 2021. Next was NYRA Bets, which was approved in Oct. 2021. NYRA Bets is partnered with BetMGM Racing for the endeavor.

FanDuel Racing is also available in Michigan. Though FanDuel runs TVG as well, FanDuel Racing is a separate site and app that offers an excellent option for online wagering.

You can bet on live racing from across the continent online through FanDuel Racing. You can open a FanDuel Racing account to bet on horse races online in Michigan with only a minimal amount of information.

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Current address

Once the account is open, you’ll need to deposit money to make bets. FanDuel Racing offers you several deposit options, including:

  • ACH/eCheck: Create a direct link to your checking account with your checking account and bank routing number.
  • Debit/credit card: Only where issuing banks allow online gambling transactions.
  • FanDuel Racing prepaid card: Sign up online and use the card to move funds from your bank to your FanDuel account. Use the card at ATMs or Discover locations.
  • PayNearMe: Deposit cash into your FanDuel account at 7-Eleven, CVS and Family Dollar stores.
  • PayPal: The world’s most popular third-party payment processor.
  • Gift cards: Prepaid cards provided by issuing banks that allow online gambling transactions.
  • Wire transfer: Online wire transfers from your bank.
  • Money orders/checks: Deposit funds into your FanDuel account by mailing in a money order.

How to bet on horse racing in Michigan

Betting on horse races is easy, particularly online. There’s a bit of jargon that is helpful to learn, but the bets themselves are all straightforward. For example, when you log into the FanDuel Racing app, the following bets should be available:

Straight bets

  • Win: You bet on a horse to win.
  • Place: You bet on a horse to finish first or second.
  • Show: You bet on a horse to finish first, second, or third.

Exotic bets

  • Exacta: You bet on two horses to finish first and second, in that order. Big payouts await if you can pick the exact finishing order of the top two. You can also “box” this bet, flipping the order of finish for two separate bets.
  • Quinella: You bet on two horses to finish first and second, in any order. Decent payouts await if you can pick the top two finishers, but this combination will yield smaller results than an exacta.
  • Trifecta: You bet on three horses to finish first, second and third, in that order. Even bigger payouts await if you can pick the exact finishing order of the top three. You can also box this bet, flipping the order of finish for the three horses.
  • Superfecta: You bet on four horses to finish first, second, third and fourth, in that order. Massive payouts await if you can pick the exact finishing order of the top four. You can also box this bet, but be aware that flipping the order of finish for four horses starts to get expensive.

Wheeling

You can also wheel all of the exotic bets listed above. This is the process of fixing the finishing position of your top horses and adding bets with combinations of even more horses to the later finishing positions.

It’s a way to save money over boxing and still give yourself some additional chances to win.

Horse racing’s Triple Crown

Three annual races have come to define thoroughbred racing in the US: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.

Together, these three races, typically held yearly from May through June with the top 3-year-olds in the country, are The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. A horse is forever called a Triple Crown winner if he or she can win all three.

  • Kentucky Derby: The first leg of the Triple Crown, typically held on the first Saturday in May on the 1-1/4-mile track at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
  • Preakness Stakes: The second leg of the Triple Crown usually held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby on the 1-3/16-mile track at the Pimlico Race Course near Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Belmont Stakes: The third and final leg of the Triple Crown, held on the 1.5-mile track at Belmont Park in New York three weeks after the Preakness in the first week of June.

Only 13 horses have managed to win all three in the same season. The first Triple Crown winner was Sir Barton in 1919.

In 1978, Affirmed became a Triple Crown winner, but there was a 37-year Triple Crown drought after that. American Pharoah broke the streak by winning the Triple Crown in 2015. Justify won the Triple Crown just three years later in 2018, the last horse to achieve the feat.

A total of 23 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to fall short of completing the Triple Crown in the difficult Belmont.

Michigan horse racing history

Michigan legalized pari-mutuel horse race wagering in the 1933. The state’s budding horse racing industry began to flourish soon after.

The first race with legal betting was held Sept. 2, 1933, at the Detroit Fairgrounds Track. Throughout the 1930s, the Detroit Fairgrounds was the only track in Michigan, but harness tracks launched in Northville and Jackson, and Hazel Park began hosting thoroughbred racing in the 1940s.

The Michigan Mile was run for the first time at the Detroit Fairgrounds in 1949, but that was the final race at the track before it was replaced by the new Detroit Race Course the following year. Alongside Hazel Park, both tracks ran thoroughbred and harness racing meets.

In the 1970s, a quarter horse track dubbed Glendale Downs opened in Hillsdale. In the 1980s, harness tracks opened in Saginaw, Swartz Creek and Muskegon. Glendale Downs closed and was replaced by Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Hazel Park became a harness-racing-only track, and the Detroit Race Course went all-thoroughbred after the two tracks spent three decades running both. A decade later, the Detroit Race Course closed altogether and Muskegon Downs went out of business. It later reopened as Great Lakes Downs, Michigan’s only thoroughbred racetrack in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, Great Lakes Downs closed, replaced by Detroit’s Pinnacle Downs. The latter only stayed open for a year before it closed. The Jackson Raceway, Mount Pleasant Meadows and Sports Creek also closed.

By 2015, there were just two racetracks in Michigan: Hazel Park, which was running thoroughbreds, and Northville Downs with harness racing.

Hazel Park closed in 2018, but Northville Downs continued to operate until May 2020 when the global COVID-19 pandemic forced a temporary closure. During that time, the Michigan Gaming Control Board announced horse racing third-party facilitators could begin acquiring a license to offer advance deposit wagering online throughout the state.

TVG was the first online operator to launch through the state regulator in June 2020. TwinSpires, operated by Churchill Downs, followed next, with Xpress Bet entering the fray in March 2021. NYRA Bets was approved as the fourth operator in October 2021. FanDuel Racing launched thereafter as well.

Plans were made to close Northville Downs in 2021 and turn the land into a housing development. However, that plan stalled at Northville City Hall, and Northville Downs announced that harness racing would continue at the track until early 2024. On Feb. 3, 2024, Northville Downs hosted its final day of 11 races before closing. Now Northville Downs is seeking a new location where it can reopen.

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