BOSTON (WWLP) – The Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) released an audit of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) that highlighted the need for better collaboration around issues facing the state horse racing industry.
Read the full Massachusetts Gaming Commission audit at this link.
The audit also examined the monitoring of problem gamblers and people on gambling exclusion lists. MGC administers both voluntary and non-voluntary gambling exclusion lists that prohibit individuals from engaging in gambling activities. game in the state. The audit period looked from July 1, 2018 to March 31, 2020 and found that there were 648 people on the voluntary list and 31 on the non-voluntary list and reported no deficiencies.
The report revealed the need 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) that the Commission administers to help pay the benefits of those working in the industry.
With the recent expansion of casino gaming and the closure of Suffolk Downs Racecourse in 2019, the Commonwealth’s gambling and horse racing industries have changed. Currently, all Thoroughbred racing is out of state and RHDF spending on racing purses (winnings and prize money from a race) has declined while the fund’s revenue from casinos has increased. In fiscal 2020, RHDF’s expenses decreased to $8.7 million from $17 million the prior year. Additionally, the 80% of the RHDF that is intended to fund scholarships 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 had an unspent balance of $16,851,650, of which $16,836,045 was allocated to Thoroughbred racing purse accounts.
The audit urges MGC to consult with the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association (MTBA) and the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) on significant challenges facing the horse racing industry, including how the RHDF can be better utilized. . Under state law, MGC is required to consult with the MTBA and DAR on RHDF matters related to race purse awards.
“While MGC has done an outstanding job in managing the state’s emerging gambling industry, our audit clearly indicates that the Commission should bring together all relevant stakeholders to consider the most effective use of Race Horse Development. Fund,” Bump said. “This consultation and collaborative effort would improve oversight of the fund and benefit breeders, owners and the industry as a whole.”
In recent years, state legislation has been filed to reform the RHDF. During the 2019-2020 legislative session, 10 such bills were introduced, including Bill 13, which sought to grant the MGC greater control and flexibility in determining the use of RHDF; House Bill 387, introduced in the 2020-2021 legislative session, would reallocate $10,000,000 per year from the RHDF to the Community Preservation Trust Fund.
RHDF receives money from gaming licensees, with the funds distributed to Thoroughbred and Standardbred associations, as approved by the MGC. RHDF money is specifically structured under state law, with 80% allocated to racing scholarships, 16% to support breeding associations, and 4% for health and retirement benefits for members. of the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Harness Horsemen’s. New England Association Inc.
MGC is responsible for overseeing licensing activities relating to the expansion of gaming and the regulation and supervision of the gaming and horse racing industries in the Commonwealth. The Commission is made up of five full-time commissioners who are responsible for overseeing and implementing the licensing and regulatory process for two casinos – MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor (EBH) – and the only slot machine parlor statewide slot, Plainridge Park Casino (PPC). At the time of the audit, MGC had 94 full-time employees and its operating costs are funded by the Massachusetts gaming industry.