Horse racing terminology questions
April 12, 2016 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I’m translating, into English, some slogans to do with gambling on the horses, and I find I need some new terminology.

In some places there are racetracks, with areas where you place bets, and in others there are clubs where you might gather to watch a live projection of races elsewhere, and place bets on them. What would you call such places? I know there are “jockey clubs” and the like, but I’m specifically stymied on what you’d call the specific rooms where you do this, sometimes called un salon in French.

Thinking upscale here, too.

If anyone knows of websites or books with discussions around this kind of gambling I’d be interested.

This will be for North American readers. My initial investigation has shown that the lingo of horse racing is quite different in North America from elsewhere in the anglosphere (ruling out Dick Francis as a source, for example).
posted by zadcat to Writing & Language (14 answers total)
In NYC (possibly other places) they were referred to as off-track betting parlors.
posted by griphus at 11:56 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Off-track betting parlors as griphus said. In many places outside of New York you can do off-track betting in casinos and some sports bars but there aren't that many dedicated facilities. The connotations of dedicated off-track betting parlors have traditionally been rather seedy, rather than upscale, so you may want to watch out with that.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:13 PM on April 12, 2016

In Las Vegas these places are called "Race and Sportsbooks," "Sportsbooks," or sometimes just a "Book."
posted by xyzzy at 12:13 PM on April 12, 2016

The connotations of dedicated off-track betting parlors have traditionally been rather seedy, rather than upscale, so you may want to watch out with that.

Oh, yeah, just to be clear the OTBs around here were just about the opposite of "upscale" in any way you can name.
posted by griphus at 12:17 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Horseracing in the US really isn't very upscale.
The day to day handicappers are usually pretty unwashed and foul mouthed and variously drunk.

Even the big races get rowdy quickly. The Kentucky Derby is notoriously rowdy, despite the refined tv coverage and those expensive hats. Think college students knocking over porta potties and mud wrestling.

Santa Anita's big days are nicer, but still have the feel of people going to the state fair in shorts and flip flops. I think Saratoga is nicer too but haven't personally been there yet.

The smaller tracks and OTBs across the country can be downright depressing. Think dive bar. The smaller tracks also broadcast races from bigger tracks. I suppose the bigger tracks broadcast other tracks too but I've never personally bothered to watch.

So I agree with the others: you can go to the track, you can go to the OTB where they are legal. At the casino you go to the sports book.
posted by littlewater at 12:50 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was a parimutuel clerk for a couple years!

In Northern California we called them Satellites, as in "Satellite Betting Facility," or OTB/Off-Track as in "Off Track Betting." I think Off-Track was most common with patrons. Most were located at county fairgrounds buildings.

The ones I worked at were all pretty seedy, but not unsafe or anything. Lots of vinyl flooring and folding tables. Lots of sullen older men. I found working at actual tracks, whether they were active or not, to be a MUCH more pleasurable experience for everybody involved.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:50 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just in you need more background, the OTBs in NYC were storefronts with long benches and dozens of hanging televisions. They were as spartan as they could get away with. Before they banned smoking in businesses here, you couldn't actually see into the glass-front OTB storefronts because of all the cigarette smoke.
posted by griphus at 12:51 PM on April 12, 2016

I wonder if you are really looking for info about the more expensive reserved tickets parts of some tracks?

There's a small amount of info about Santa Anita's dress code in the reserved sections and more private rooms.

Most tracks have more private reserved ticket areas but they all have different names and aren't all that fancy.
posted by littlewater at 12:59 PM on April 12, 2016

Yup, pretty much anything having to do with betting the ponies in the US is pretty scuzzy and has been for decades.

Sportsbook in Vegas and AC are kind of what you're describing, but you know, Vegas and AC.

Horse racing may be the sport of kings in Europe, but it's the sport of n'er do wells in the states.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on April 12, 2016

The other term could be simulcast. I worked at a track for a number of years, and at this track, we would have floors or rooms dedicated to simulcasting - broadcasting races from other tracks so that patrons could place bets on those. It was in the same general building as our live racing, but in a separate area (versus off-track or sportsbook which are in different buildings entirely). While we only had live racing so many days per year, the "Simulcast Center" was open 365 days to take wagers on races that happened elsewhere.
posted by JannaK at 4:02 PM on April 12, 2016

The upscale version of the room JannaK described is sometimes called a teletheater. Think plush carpets, individual TVs, drink service, etc.
posted by djb at 8:18 PM on April 12, 2016

Maybe it would help if you spent some time on off-track betting websites or other racing sites.

In this part of Ontario, Champions is the brand name for the off-track betting palour "chain." It uses "teletheatre" to refer to its locations. The website also has a glossary of terms which you may find helpful.

I don't know how plush or seedy the teletheatres are--typically if I'm motivated enough to go out to watch the races I'll go to the track. The only time I ventured into an off-track betting palour was one of the fancy ones in downtown Toronto that has since closed. It was everything you'd imagine a gentleman's club of the late 1800s or early 1900s being--deep rich colours, lots of wood and leather and horse pictures hung on the walls--with the addition of TV screens. It really was a lovely place, even if it was obvious that I wasn't the type of person who was expected to darken its doors.

If you want to look at general racing sites--and I'm working on the assumption you're talking about Thoroughbred racing as opposed to standardbreds or quarter horses, mainly since you're giving the impression of an international audience--then your best two options are The Blood Horse and The Daily Racing Form. Personally, I prefer the former these days, as it is still open to casual readers and doesn't require logins, subscriptions, etc. DRF, however, has an introduction for newbies section that you may find helpful.
posted by sardonyx at 9:45 PM on April 12, 2016

The OTB here in Portland is kind of a dive bar but not really seedy, mostly because it also has pool tables which is considered a semi-legitimate sport here.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:13 PM on April 12, 2016

I came back to this because I've got more translating to do on this topic. Everyone was very helpful – thank you!
posted by zadcat at 12:38 PM on July 7, 2016

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