Horse racing and simulcast wagering are set to become illegal in Massachusetts on July 31. This happens every July on the same date. Yet like a high schooler writing an essay, Massachusetts lawmakers always wait until the last second to address the extension.
One year, lawmakers waited a bit too long. Horse racing and simulcasting were illegal in Massachusetts for 36 hours in 2018. Luckily, July 31 landed on a Tuesday that year. No major races were planned until Friday, so everything went on as scheduled.
However, this year poses different threats the MA Legislature has yet to have to traverse. The state Senate and the House are in gridlock debating the legalization of sports betting. While both sides have approved bills, the measures are far apart. A conference committee is working to reconcile the differences.
Could this become an issue for horse betting and simulcast betting in the state?
Horse racing laws tied to sports betting
These are the big differences between the House- and Senate-approved bills.
- Collegiate sports wagering would be illegal under the Senate’s bill
- Unlimited, untethered mobile licenses would be allowed under the House’s bill, only nine under the Senate’s bill
- The tax rate on the Senate’s bill is much higher
With the horse racing expiration date nearing, lawmakers find themselves in a strange position. They must consider the future of horse racing while also trying to legalize sports betting, which could impact horse racing and simulcast betting. Rep. Tackey Chan, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, talked about the dilemma recently.
“I know some folks have been trying to figure out what we’re doing with racing,” Chan said. “For those in the public that don’t know, it’s actually tied to sports betting. There are some legal issues that need to be synced up.”
Horse racing tracks and OTBs in Massachusetts
The only racetrack in Massachusetts that holds horse races is Plainridge Park Casino. Suffolk Downs used to hold races but shut down the track in 2019. The property was sold to a development group that is building residential, retail and open-space developments.
There are a number of off-track betting places in Massachusetts, such as:
- Raynham Park
- Plainridge Park Casino
- Suffolk Downs
The future of these parks is still unclear. Why MA lawmakers are taking so long to tackle this problem is even hazier. One thing is certain, though: The next couple months will be very important for both sports bettors and horse racing fans in the state of Massachusetts.