BOSTON — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission notified the state’s three horse tracks and simulcasting centers to cease their racing and simulcasting operations Wednesday because the Legislature did not extend the authorization that expired July 31.
“The Commonwealth’s racing legislation … expired as of midnight on July 31, 2018. The legislature adjourned without taking action on a replacement or extension bill,” Gaming Commission Executive Director Edward Bedrosian wrote to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park Racecourse and Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park. “As of today, there is no statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth.”
The Gaming Commission on Wednesday also added discussion of the matter to the agenda for its Thursday meeting as “an emergency item.”
A bill (H 4809) that would have extended the authorization for racing and simulcasting for another year was passed by both branches by the last hours of formal sessions Tuesday. The House passed the bill last week and the Senate approved it late Tuesday. But in the flurry of last-minute action, the bill never got the final procedural votes required to send it to the governor’s desk.
Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, said he had to send 40 employees home Wednesday and will have to do the same on Thursday.
“It’s a little bit frustrating to get caught up in the meat grinder at the end of the session like this,” he said.
Also at risk is the weekend of live racing the track has scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday. Tuttle said about 250 horses are expecting to run for a chance at purse money and the track is expecting as many as 13,000 spectators over the two days.
“Those people presumably want to show up and watch and wager on the races,” Tuttle said. “The horsemen, the local horsemen and Massachusetts breeders, they have limited opportunities to run for purse money now and it would be a shame if this opportunity is denied to them given what happened.”
The House and Senate each return in informal sessions on Thursday and could move the racing and simulcasting bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk then.