The outcome of Massachusetts sports betting legislative efforts will play a considerable role in the outcome for a $25 million horse racing and wagering facility in Sturbridge.
The Telegram & Gazette this week was first to report development plans for a $25 million equine center featuring live horse racing, pari-mutuel wagering, and sports betting on the east side of Interstate 84 in Sturbridge. Dubbed the Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center, the undertaking comes from local businessman Armand Janjigian.
Two local hearings on the pitch are scheduled for later this month.
I’m sure they heard support and concern throughout the community, and it’s really going to come down to addressing those concerns and people understanding what this is and what this is not,” Jeffrey Bridges, Sturbridge town administrator, told the Telegram & Gazette.
Live horsing racing in Massachusetts came to an end in June of 2019 when the last race at Suffolk Downs was held. Janjigian wants to bring back live racing, but legal sports betting is presumably vital to moving the development forward.
Racing, Sports Betting
Bridges believes a major component of convincing locals to back the Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center is bringing awareness to what the complex entails.
“It’s not a casino. There are no gaming tables. There are no slot machines. As the applicant said, it’s ten races a year, plus a series of community events that the town is able to coordinate with,” explained Bridges.
Resident approval is needed, as area voters would need to endorse new zoning rules by a two-thirds majority. The Town of Sturbridge has yet to issue a formal stance on the development.
Janjigian’s blueprint entails 235 acres of land just north of the Connecticut-Massachusetts border. The facility is to include a thoroughbred racetrack, community farms, athletic fields, and nature trails. The grandstand — if sports betting is legalized in the state — would include a sportsbook with a ticket window and betting kiosks.
Should the development be built, Janjigian says the venue would create 100 full-time jobs, and generate more than $1 million annually in new tax revenue and benefits for the community.
Horse racing is a dying sport in the United States. Tracks across the nation have closed or greatly reduced their racing calendars.
Sports betting has served as one way to return patrons to tracks, as made evident in New Jersey at The Meadowlands and Monmouth Park. Massachusetts, however, still hasn’t legalized sports betting.
House lawmakers passed sports betting legislation earlier this year. It’s the second consecutive year that the lower chamber has done so. But the Senate has failed to act.
The Massachusetts Legislature is currently on its summer break but returns to work following this weekend’s Labor Day holiday. “This [sports betting] will be up for discussion in the Senate in the fall when we’re there,” Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) said recently.
The House’s approved sports betting bill, HB 3977, would tax sports betting revenue at 12.5 percent on land-based bets, and 15 percent on mobile wagers. The state’s three casinos — Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park, would be issued retail sports betting licenses. Racetracks that host live racing would also be handed in-person sports betting permit.
As many as three mobile sportsbook rights would also be available but at a cost of $5 million each.
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