Mass. horse racing needs improvement after state audit

Boston Statehouse

Tiz the Law (6), with Manny Franco up, wins the Travers Stakes horse race at Saratoga, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Stacey Heatherington/NYRA via AP)

BOSTON (WWLP) – An audit released by the Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) showed the need for improved collaboration around issues facing state’s horse racing industry.

The audit examined records from July 1, 2018 through March 31, 2020 on how MGC is monitoring problem gamblers and individuals listed on gaming exclusion lists. MGC administers both self-voluntary and non-voluntary gambling exclusion lists which prohibit individuals from gaming activities in the state. Auditors found 648 individuals on the voluntary list and 31 on the non-voluntary list.

No deficiencies were found however, there is a needs for MGC to improve collaboration with other entities around issues facing the state’s horse racing industry, including its administration of the Race Horse Development Fund (RHDF) which the Commission administers to help pay for benefits for those who work in the industry.

According to a news release from the Office of the State Auditor, all thoroughbred races are held out of state and RHDF’s spending on race purses (winnings and prizes from a race) has declined while revenue into the fund from casinos has increased. In fiscal year 2020, RHDF’s spending decreased to $8.7 million, down from $17 million the year prior. Additionally, the 80 percent of the RHDF that is earmarked to fund purses cannot be distributed because, under state regulations, it can only be used to fund races held in Massachusetts. As a result, the RHDF is not being used as intended, and as of March 31, 2020 it had an unspent balance of $16,851,650, of which $16,836,045 was allocated for the thoroughbred racing purse accounts.

“While MGC has done a noteworthy job managing the state’s emerging gaming industry, our audit makes clear the Commission should bring all relevant stakeholders to the table to consider the Race Horse Development Fund’s most effective use,” Bump said. “This consultation and collaborative effort would enhance oversight of the fund, and would benefit breeders, owners, and the industry as a whole.”

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