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Horse race tracks in Iowa

In this piece, you will learn everything you need to know about horse race tracks in Iowa, including where they are, the legal status of horse racing betting, how to bet at an Iowa race track, and more.

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For Iowa residents (and visitors) who are 21 years of age or older, horse racing has long been a favorite gambling activity. While online horse racing has progressed in recent years with three Iowa horse racing betting sites currently live, nothing beats the experience of betting at a horse racing track.

The horse racing track industry has struggled across the country in recent years, including in Iowa, as there is just one remaining horse racing track in the state. Today, we take a deeper look at horse race tracks in Iowa, including letting you know how you can get involved in the action today.

Horse race tracks in Iowa

Despite there being three online Iowa horse racing betting sites including AM Wager, DRF Bets, and TwinSpires, there is just one horse race track in Iowa. Continue reading for the exact location of the only operating horse race track in the state.

Map of race track locations

Iowa Race Track


Prairie Meadows

1 Prairie Meadows Dr, Altoona, IA 50009

Yes, horse race betting in Iowa is legal, as the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) regulates and oversees the horse race tracks in Iowa. In addition to handling the state’s parimutuel betting laws, they also issue licenses and ensure every race is fair and honest.

A non-profit group called the Iowa Thoroughbred and Owners Association (ITBOA) is also involved in the horse betting industry, designed to promote thoroughbred racing in breeding in the state.

Horse race betting has long been a favorite pastime of Iowa gamblers, with legislators in the state passing the Pari-Mutuel Wagering Act in 1983. In 1989, the IRGC, formerly the Racing Commission, became the powerhouse in the state and is recognized today,

How to bet at an Iowa race track

Iowans can head to Prairie Meadows race track located in Des Moines to place a bet today on Quarter Horse and thoroughbred races. While it might seem intimidating if you haven't done it yet, we here at IABetting.com are going to walk you through how to bet at horse race tracks in Iowa today.

  1. Visit the OTB: When you get to Prairie Meadows, head to the off-track betting location which will be located near the race track itself. Though there will be some racetrack tellers taking bets, there will also be self-serving kiosks that are easy to use. Head there and continue reading.
  2. Research Your Bet: Before you head to the self-serving kiosks at the horse race track in Iowa, have all of your bet information ready to go. This includes horse race bet information such as horse race track, horse #, and the type of bet you want to place. While you can do your research online, there will also be tip sheets at the OTB that are put together by professional horse racing handicappers.
  3. Insert Your Cash: Using cash only, put your money into the self-serving OTB machine to begin the process. While you can place bets for as low as $1, there is a $5 minimum deposit.
  4. Place Your Wager: With your bet information from step #2 on hand, follow the intuitive prompts on the self-serving kiosks. Through each step of the process, you’ll be asked to select the race track where the race is being held, the posting number of the horse, and which type of bet you want to place. Once confirmed, you’ll receive a paper ticket with all of your wager information on it.
  5. Collect Your Winnings: If your wager is a loser, you can discard your ticket. If it’s a winner, however, return to the machine and place your ticket in the slot. In return, you’ll receive a voucher with your winnings plus the money risked. Take it to the cashier at the horse race track in Iowa to receive your cash.

Things to keep in mind when betting at a race track in Iowa

When visiting the horse race track in Iowa, there are things every horse racing bettor should know. Based on nearly 20 years of horse racing betting experience, below are a few things to keep in mind when betting at a race track in Iowa.

  • Use Tip Sheets: Put together by professional horse racing handicappers, horse race tracks in Iowa’s off-track betting sites have tip sheets which are essentially cheat sheets for the day’s races. These booklets, which typically cost no more than $10, offer data and information on the day’s races such as the horses and jockey’s record, who they’re trained by, and much more.
  • Monitor Track Conditions: Whether you are betting at Prairie Meadows or another race off-site at the off-track betting facility, make sure you’re aware of the condition of the track. Some horses and jockeys perform better in muddy conditions than others, so being aware of that type of information can make the difference between a winning and losing ticket.
  • Track Attributes: When betting on races at Iowa’s only track, Prairie Meadows, it’s important to know the track’s attributes to target horses that do well on them. Prairie Meadows is a one-mile dirt track, for example.
  • Graded Events: With horse races taking place at Prairie Meadows from April to October, there are select races called “Graded Events” which just mean the best horses (and jockeys) are on hand, with the highest financial purses in the country. Prairie Meadows has two graded events every year, including the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap and Iowa Oaks. Other landmark events throughout the year include the Iowa Sprint, Iowa Derby, Iowa Breeders Derby, the Iowa Distaff, and more.
  • Gamble Responsibly: Every state that offers gambling, including Iowa, has responsible gambling resources for problem gamblers to take advantage of. If your gambling at horse race tracks in Iowa has become a problem, you can seek help at www.1800betsoff.org or by phone at 1-800-BETS-OFF.


Are there any race tracks near Des Moines?

Yes, there is a race track near Des Moines, Prairie Meadows which is located just 15 minutes from downtown Des Moines.

Which is the oldest race track in Iowa?

The oldest race track in Iowa is the Prairie Meadows Racecourse which opened in March of 1989.

Is there Iowa sports betting at horse race tracks in IA?

Yes, there is Iowa sports betting at Prairie Meadows Race Course, with Caesars Sportsbook on-site. Iowa was one of the very first states in the Union to legalize sports betting in 2019.

What types of horse racing events are held in Iowa?

At Iowa’s only horse race track, Prairie Meadows Racecourse, there is thoroughbred, quarter horse, and harness racing.

Are there any historic or notable horse race tracks in Iowa?

The Prairie Meadows Racecourse is the most notable horse race track in Iowa, officially opening its doors in March of 1989.

Can I watch live horse races at these tracks?

Yes, you can watch live horse races at Iowa’s only horse race track, Prairie Meadows, from April to October.