Voters in Small MA Town Block New Horse Racetrack, Sportsbook Project

Written By Dan Holmes on January 11, 2023Last Updated on February 14, 2023
Small Massachusetts town rejects new horse racetrack, retail sportsbook

Voters in Hardwick, Massachusetts, rejected plans for a proposed horse racetrack last weekend in a vote that underscores the tepid support for the sport prevents another retail sportsbook from opening down the line.

Later this year, Massachusetts online sports betting and retail sports betting at the two existing licensed horse racetracks is expected to launch. In addition, retail sportsbooks at the state’s three casinos will launch Jan. 31, 2023.

With the rejection of the Hardwick track, as well as a similar defeat of a proposal for a Sturbridge racetrack in 2022, that leaves only Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts law permits those facilities to apply for a Category 2 sports betting license and partner with an online sports betting operator at a cost of $5 million for a license.

They have not yet applied as they weren’t prepared to offer sports betting in January. But they are expected to apply in 2023. Rayhman Park has already made a deal to partner with bet365 for an online sportsbook.

Raynham Park does not currently have live racing, but it is a simulcast facility. Suffolk Downs has live harness racing and is a simulcast facility.

As a licensed horse racetrack, the $20 Hardwick facility would have been eligible to offer sports betting when it opened, too.

WANT TO KNOW MORE? Horse Racing Betting in Massachusetts 2023

How the Hardwick Project Failed

Last weekend, Hardwick citizens voted 830-312 to defeat a plan that would have built a racetrack on the 400-acre Great Meadowbrook Farm location. Hardwick is located in central Massachusetts, east of the Quabbin Reservoir on fertile farming land. The region is sprinkled with dairy farms and other agriculture.

It’s a small community — the majority of which was passionately against the project.

Opponents of the plan had launched a website titled No On Hardwick. If it had been approved, the track would have returned thoroughbred racing to the region, where local residents had seen the sport nearly 90 years ago at small tracks near the current Hardwick Winery.

“We’re disappointed,” John Stefanini, spokesperson for the proposal and former Democratic state representative, told MassLive. “We need to regroup and consider our next options.”

Stefanini said they will decide whether to resubmit plans for a project in Hardwick or another area by Feb. 24.

“I’m happy, I’m very happy (with the vote outcome),” resident Ned Kelly told MassLive. “I was terrified of all that traffic (the project could bring).”

Outlook for MA Sportsbooks

Without many retail sports betting options, most Massachusetts bettors will turn to online sportsbooks. Many of the leading sports betting companies, such as Caesars, BetMGM, DraftKings, and FanDuel, are poised to launch in the state when mobile sports betting debuts in 2023, likely March. Those operators need to secure a Category 1 sports betting license.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission began reviewing applications for sports betting licenses in December. It will continue that process through at least Jan. 18, when it will vote on untethered Category 3 online licenses.

READ MORE: How Massachusetts Sports Betting Tax Revenue Will Be Spent

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a Staff Writer for Play MA with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He also has extensive experience covering the launch of sports betting in other states, including Ohio and Maryland. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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