Horse Track Plans Hint At Massachusetts Sports Betting Legalization

Plans for a $25 million horse track and sports betting center are being made in central Massachusetts ahead of possible legalization of sportsbooks this fall. 

The Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center would offer in-person and online Massachusetts sports betting along with live horse racing, dining, walking trails and more. Any sports betting plans are contingent on the legalization of sports wagering by the commonwealth, with state lawmakers expected to continue debating sports betting legislation this month. 

It’s an interesting development in a state that has bandied about the idea of legal online and in-person sports betting since a 2018 Supreme Court decision left legalization up to individual states and other jurisdictions. 

Why a Horse Track? 

Sports betting at the proposed track has the support of two horse racing organizations in Massachusetts, according to a report yesterday in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Some state lawmakers are backing the idea of sportsbooks at tracks, too. 

Horse racetracks and horse or greyhound racing simulcast facilities could apply for a license to offer in-person sports betting under a bill now pending in the state Senate. Tracks with in-person sportsbooks would also be allowed to have one individually-branded mobile app, which would be licensed separately. 

That could be a boon for live racing in a state where horse tracks have taken some recent hits, including the end of live racing in 2019 at historic Suffolk Downs in East Boston — now a simulcast facility. The only live horse racing in the state today is harness racing at Plainridge Park, home to one of the state’s three casinos. 

Casinos would fall under a separate category of proposed sports betting license, with each license good for in-person sports betting and up to three individually-branded apps that would be licensed separately. 

Mobile apps not tied to any track or casinos could also be licensed to operate under the bill. 

What’s Next for Massachusetts Sports Betting?

Legislation that would bring sports betting to Massachusetts is now pending in the state Senate Ways and Means Committee, which could take up the bill at any time. 

Massachusetts has less than four months to get a regulatory bill through to Gov. Charlie Baker if it wants to have legal sportsbooks in time for the 2022 Super Bowl. While the current legislative session doesn’t end until Jan. 4, 2022, the last scheduled day for formal action is Nov. 17. 

About the Author
Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett

Legislative Writer
Based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer who covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, Hanchett has been known to watch UK. basketball from time to time.

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