BOSTON — One week out from the expiration of the legal authority for horse racing and simulcast wagering, a bill allowing those activities to continue until December is on the move in the House.
Members of the Ways and Means Committee had until 10 a.m. Thursday to weigh in on the bill, which would move the sunset date for racing and simulcasting to Dec. 1, 2020 from Jan. 15, 2020. It also includes language that would allow Suffolk Downs to hold onto its simulcasting license for the duration of the extension, despite the track having closed in June and having no plans to hold live races in the future.
The committee appears to have redrafted a bill (S 2308) that originated with the Senate Ways and Means Committee and that the Senate passed in July, but that the House did not take up.
Over the years, lawmakers have extended the racing and simulcasting laws for a year at a time, often waiting until just before or after the deadline to pass extensions.
Though thoroughbred racing has ceased in Massachusetts, simulcast centers remain in East Boston, Raynham and Plainville, where the owners of Plainridge Park Casino also offer wagering on harness horse racing.
Last month, the Gaming Commission sent the Legislature a letter imploring lawmakers to not let the racing and simulcasting authorizations lapse again.
"Although no live racing will occur until next April and although live racing has ended at Suffolk Downs, a disruption in these statutes in January would still have significant impacts as simulcasting continues at these facilities. Foremost among such potential impacts, a disruption would impact employees of the ... simulcasting licensees racing facilities such as pari-mutuel clerks, security, concessions, facilities and grounds personnel," the commission wrote. "Further, if simulcasting revenues are interrupted, this could potentially impact live racing once it resumes because simulcasting revenues are utilized to pay for live racing purses."