Racehorse owner and entrepreneur Armand Janjigian wants to bring a $25 million equestrian center to Massachusetts, including horse racing.
Whether he does or not may well depend on Massachusetts legalizing sports betting.
Center to feature two tracks and (if possible) sports betting
At first glance, the connection between legal sports betting and Janjigian’s proposed facility may not seem so obvious.
Called the Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center, the facility would cover more than 220 acres in the Worcester County town located in the southwest corner of the state. Its highlight would be two racetracks, a mile-long dirt track, and seven-eighths mile turf one.
The tracks would host 10 races per year along with other community events, according to Janjigian’s application with Sturbridge. The facility could also host festivals and concerts. Additionally, the center would include athletic fields, walking trails, conference space, and restaurants.
According to Sturbridge Town Administrator Jeffrey K. Bridges Jr., the facility would not include gaming tables or slot machines. “It’s not a casino,” Bridges told the Telegram & Gazette.
The center would host both in-person and online sports betting, should Massachusetts lawmakers legalize it.
Racetracks among possible retail sports betting locations in Massachusetts
Across much of the country, horse racetracks have closed over recent years in many states due to various factors. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced some to cease operations, even before that, declines in revenue forced many to shut down.
However, some tracks have managed to stay open or have reopened after being allowed to offer other types of gambling such as electronic video games or slots, table games, historical horse racing machines, or sports betting.
Being able to become a sports betting provider may be necessary for the Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center to become reality.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a sports betting bill in July that would allow a limited number of retail sportsbooks to open. If the bill were to become law, the state’s casinos would be authorized to receive retail sports betting licenses, as would at least two racetracks.
Additionally, the bill would allow an unlimited number of online operators to launch mobile sports betting in the state. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means is currently reviewing the legislation.
Sturbridge citizens to consider proposal this month
Janjigian says the new equestrian center will create 100 jobs and generate $1 million a year in revenue for Sturbridge. The project enjoys support from both the New England Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
The town will hold public hearings starting next week to discuss the project.
“I’m sure they heard support and concern throughout the community,” said Bridges. “It’s really going to come down to addressing those concerns and people understanding what this is and what this is not.”
That and the fate of sports betting in Massachusetts, which also could prove a crucial element ensuring the project’s viability.