After an over 36-hour, unintentional ban, racing and simulcasting is legal again in Massachusetts.
Lawmakers Thursday acted quickly to fix an apparent gaffe they created by not enacting a bill to allow racing and simulcasting to continue into 2019. The existing law expired at midnight Tuesday as Beacon Hill scrambled to finish its formal legislative session.
The brief lapse drove uncertainty in the state’s racing and gambling industries over the impact it could potentially have had on hundreds of jobs and forced some to suspend operations Wednesday and reschedule horse races.
By early Thursday afternoon, the state House of Representatives and Senate moved to enact the bill during an informal session, sending it across the finish line to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk where it was promptly signed into law ahead of horse races planned for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
“The House took action today to extend simulcasting, preserving jobs,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement to Boston.com. “We look forward to an exciting weekend.”
The law allows racing and simulcasting to continue through July 31, 2019, similar to past laws that allow each to operate on a year-by-year basis.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Executive Director Edward Bedrosian told commissioners in Springfield Thursday that Plainville’s Plainridge Park Casino was approved to reschedule a race for that day to Friday in light of the situation.
Live Racing scheduled for today (Thursday) has been postponed and tentatively rescheduled for tomorrow (Friday). Please watch for updates.
— Plainridge Casino (@PlainridgePark) August 2, 2018
East Boston’s Suffolk Downs, which suspended simulcasting services on Wednesday, has races scheduled this weekend.
We want to thank the House, Senate and Governor for addressing this today and we’re looking forward to two great days of racing this weekend.
— Suffolk Downs (@SuffolkDowns) August 2, 2018
Licenses issued by the Gaming Commission — which include the two race tracks and Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park, a simulcast center in Raynham — were reauthorized Thursday, according to Bedrosian.
Addressing commissioners an hour before Baker signed the bill, Bedrosian said his biggest concern was that the industries would lose many of their experienced seasonal workers if the ban continued on.
But he did not anticipate any problems with them getting back up and running if the inadvertent ban was only for a short period of time.
He later announced the news that the law had been approved to commissioners with three words: “Racing is fixed.”