The horse racing industry in Massachusetts now has plenty of cash from casinos, the problem is, with the exception of Suffolk Downs, there isn’t much need for it in the current landscape.
Due to a provision in Massachusetts state casino law, which stipulates that a portion of gambling revenues be placed into a horse racing fund to aid its horse owners and breeders, the state can expect to receive 9 percent of slot revenues, as well as a small percentage of annual licensing fees and casino revenues. To date, approximately $10.3 million in revenue has been generated from the state’s Race Horse Development Fund, and according to the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a Revere group that represents thoroughbred owners and trainers, that number could almost double when all of Boston’s gaming facilities are operating.
In 2012 the Massachusetts horse racing industry’s regulatory duties and responsibilities were assumed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and although the gaming act has generated some movement in the right direction for the state’s long suffering thoroughbred horse racing industry, some legislators in the state want to reexamine features of the 2011 state gaming law. Specifically the ones that make it mandatory for casinos to give a portion of their revenue to an industry which has diminished to one unprofitable thoroughbred track, Suffolk Downs in Revere, and a new successful harness racing track in Plainview.
Suffolk Downs, a Boston thoroughbred track which is losing more than $10 million a year due to less race days, the decline of on-site betting, and a track that hasn’t seen a race in almost a year, will benefit the most from the fund. Making matters worse, the revival plans for the summer’s races there have been delayed for months, which means that only one track is reaping the benefits, Plainridge Park. Approximately 9 percent of the state’s first and only legal casino’s gross gaming revenues have gone into the fund since its opening in June.
According to the MGC, as of July 18, 2015 the Race Horse Development Fund spends $420,000 for harness racing and $1.3 million for thoroughbred racing for a total of $1.7 million, which leaves a balance of $8.6 million sitting in the fund. That balance is expected to more than double adding 2.5 percent of their gambling revenue to the fund when the state’s two licensed resort casinos Wynn Everett and MGM Springfield open in 2018. That could add as much as $21 million to horse racing’s annual revenue.
As casinos have proliferated nationwide, horse racing has lost a major portion of its audience and it may take more than a revenue boost to bring them back home.