Most sports betting remains illegal in Massachusetts. But the two major forms of wagering that are permitted here — daily fantasy sports and horse racing — are about to come together.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday approved a proposal by Suffolk Downs that will allow the daily fantasy sports operator FanDuel to offer wagers on horse races to Massachusetts customers through its mobile apps.
Though live racing ended at the track on the Boston-Revere border this year, Suffolk Downs still has services for customers to place remote wagers on races happening elsewhere. The track offers simulcasting of races, and it has an online business in “advance deposit wagering.”
It’s now pursuing plans to resume racing in Great Barrington, which is among several horse racing-related proposals that need the approval of the state Legislature.
FanDuel, which has also become a leading sports wagering company in some states where that practice is legal, will be piggybacking on Suffolk Downs’ existing online business.
The daily fantasy sports operator is owned by Flutter Entertainment, a European sports betting conglomerate that also owns TVG, which has previously run such online services though Suffolk Downs.
Suffolk Downs told the gaming commission that the FanDuel program could help sell bets on racing to a new clientele. Daily fantasy sports players pay money to compete in contests where they can win cash prizes based on the performance of athletes they select.
The program starts in January.
But it will begin as the horse racing industry operates under a cloud of uncertainty. The legislative authorizations for wagering on horse races expire Jan. 15, at the end of a temporary extension state lawmakers approved last year.
Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, told the commission that he expects the Legislature will approve another temporary measure, then debate the future of horse racing as part of a broader discussion about sports betting.
Members of the commission said during a discussion that they hope legislators act expeditiously to remove the question marks around the industry. While Suffolk Downs is not operating races, Plainridge Park Casino will still run harness races in warmer weather.
The tracks also need state legislative permission extended for simulcasts. Gaming commission chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein noted during the meeting that the revenues from simulcasting can help support the horse racing industry.
“We don’t want them at the last second to forget that there are some significant implications if an extension isn’t in place,” she said of lawmakers.
Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.