Off-Track Betting (OTB)

Off-track betting is a regulated, legal system whereby bettors can gamble on horse racing taking place at a number of different racetracks from a single location not situated at any racetrack. Various types of remote betting systems with piped-in teleplay of races have sprung up from time to time in the past, and today, this form of wagering makes use of state-of-the-art technology.

In the 1973 motion picture “The Sting”, an elaborate fake off-track betting parlor was set up expressly to cheat a big time gambler, for example. Off-track betting’s association with the darker side of gambling was a part of real life as well, and it was this association that led the government of New York State to legalize off-track betting in 1970 as a way of providing a legal alternative to organized crime, support the state horseracing industry and raise money for City and State tax coffers.

The very first legal off-track pari-mutuel wagering operation in the country opened in New York on April 8, 1970 with a pair of branch offices and a central Telephone Betting Center. New York’s off-track betting system, known as “OTB” for short, has been extremely successful and has been emulated by a great number of other states and municipalities.

OTB has changed over time to be more responsive to the needs of horse wagerers. These changes have as much to do with comfort and convenience as with improving the reliability and practicality of the system itself. For example, OTB locations were early proponents and operators of a fully computerized betting and cashing system. The racetrack experience has also been expanded and made more entertaining, with so-called “Teletheatres” broadcasting races from the nation’s major horse racing tracks and full service restaurants providing a level of service approximating that of the very best tracks.

Off-track betting has been a boon for the horse racing industry and for both casual and professional horse wagerers, bringing the race track experience to the bettor instead of vice versa. While nothing beats the unique atmosphere of an actual horse racing track, off-track betting parlors like those established by OTB certainly come close!