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Horse Race Betting in Las Vegas has Continued to Evolve

Author: Neha Agrawal

One of the staples for many years in Las Vegas has been betting on horse racing. Originally, this was done in smaller rooms, with no televisions and a lot of boards listing the entrants in all of the races. Another board listed the results of the races already run.

In those days in Las Vegas, the betting options for American races were quite limited. Even as recently as thirty years ago, most tracks offered very few multiple or exotic bets. So Las Vegas picked up the slack, offering their own “house” bets. These included house quinellas and house exactas - the American term for picking the first two finishers in order.

The Las Vegas books did not offer separate pools on these bets. What they did was take the win price of the winner and multiply it times the place price of the second horse. So if the winner of a race paid $6 to win and the second horse paid $5 to place, the house exacta paid $30. For a quinella, the exacta payoff was cut in half, making it $15 in this example.

Even now, with almost every race in America having an exacta, this rule of thumb for an exacta payoff still works. Though it’s now a separate pool, the payoff usually comes close to the old Las Vegas formula of winners price times the place horse’s price.

Things have now changed dramatically when it comes to betting on horses in Las Vegas. No longer is there a big board being marked by someone with a marker. It’s all available on television monitors now.

In the past, not only was there no view of the races, but there wasn’t even a live call being offered. Most Las Vegas casinos had someone who recreated the race from a chart, calling out the running as if he was watching it all in front of himself.

Now, each Las Vegas race book has a large wall of television screens which displays the video from all the major racetracks in the country and occasionally from international locations. And almost all bets, which used to be booked by the casino, now go into the parimutuel pool at each track.

One old touch that still remains at many Las Vegas race books is the house quinella. With exactas almost always available, the payoff for that bet is just cut in half to get the house quinella. Many big bettors in Las Vegas like to use the house quinella instead of the track’s exacta because they can make a big bet and their money will not achange the odds and effect the final payoff.