The state gambling commission will impose accreditation requirements on horse-racing officials and insist that all applicants for racing licenses be fingerprinted for security, as part of a regulatory overhaul in anticipation of a flood of cash into the racing industry from casino taxes.
The Massachusetts racing industry is “in decline,” according to a study commissioned by the gambling panel, which, under state law, took over regulation of the live racing and simulcast industries in May.
“The Legislature and the governor have made the policy clear to reinvigorate the racing industry in Massachusetts,” said Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
The 2011 state casino law sets aside what is likely to be millions of dollars in casino taxes to increase the purses at races, to attract more elite competition and provide a boost to the industry.
New regulations and procedures will also “bolster the horse racing industry by placing critical focus on integrity and safety,” Crosby said.
Racing patrons are unlikely to notice the policy changes, he said, though the commission hopes the attention that is being paid to racing will increase public confidence that the races are on the level and the horses are treated humanely.
Two consultants who studied the Massachusetts racing industry for the commission, Spectrum Gaming Group and Last Frontier Consulting, presented their findings and recommendations to the commission Tuesday.
The consultants documented a steady decline in the amount wagered at Massachusetts racetracks in recent years, even before a state ban on dog racing took effect in 2010.
The amount wagered at live races at Plainridge Racecourse, the harness racetrack in Plainville, fell about 39 percent in five years, from $2.4 million in 2007 to $1.5 million in 2011, according to the report.
At Suffolk Downs in East Boston, the only thoroughbred track in the state, betting on live racing fell 40 percent, from $12.9 million to $7.7 million, the report stated.
Purses also declined at the two tracks, which are each pursuing licenses to expand the gambling they offer.
Plainridge is preparing a bid for the one slot parlor license created by the casino law; Suffolk Downs is seeking a casino resort license.
The consultants also recommended that the commission hire an experienced manager to lead its racing division, and that the state adopt testing and medication policies for horses, following the latest standards of the Association of Racing Commissioners International’s Model Rules of Racing.
The necessary drug testing on the animals should be outsourced to an accredited private laboratory, the consultants said.
Other recommendations include modernizing the computer technology, software, and financial procedures used by racing regulators.
Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who has led the panel’s takeover of the racing industry, said the commission would convene a group of regulators, experts, and people in the racing industry to put the consultant’s recommendations into place.