The California horse racing industry could benefit from the passage of Proposition 26 this November. One major player in the business announced new preparations for a future where horse racing and sports betting co-exist.
The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields, added a new division to its operation called 1/ST RACING & GAMING. According to a press release sent out late Wednesday, this arm of the company “will position the core thoroughbred horse racing business to fully capitalize on the future of sports wagering and gaming.”
What this means for The Stronach Group
Chairwoman, CEO and President Belinda Stronach was bullish about the decision to add gaming to this department:
“The shifting landscape of sports wagering, digital platforms and interest in high quality content presents an opportunity for 1/ST to innovate to meet the demands of our modern consumers. An enhanced 1/ST RACING & GAMING business unit will enable us to move faster and more efficiently to deliver our unique, industry-leading Thoroughbred horse racing, gaming and sports entertainment content to the next generation audience.”
Several personnel moves accompany the expansion. Aidan Butler became the new Chief Executive Officer of the new division. He was formerly the Chief Operating Officer of 1/ST RACING. The company also announced the hiring of Rikki Tanenbaum to serve as the division’s Chief Commercial Officer and Stephen Screnci as the new President of Racing and Business Development.
“I’m very pleased to welcome Rikki and Steve to 1/ST RACING & GAMING,” Butler said. “As we look ahead to build upon our heritage as North America’s market-leading Thoroughbred horse racing and gaming company, we need unparalleled excellence in racing operations, a focus on modernizing all aspects of this sport for emerging generations of customers and a diversified economic base to power us into the future. This is the team to get us there.”
The timing seems curious
The expansion of sports betting around the country is tough to ignore. Since the repeal of PASPA in 2018, more than 30 states have legalized sports betting in some form or fashion.
However, only one of the three states The Stronach Group operates in is on that list. California has two competing initiatives up for a vote this November, and several Stronach executives have enthusiastically endorsed Prop 26.
Prop 26 would legalize in-person sports betting in California and allow racetracks to build on-site sportsbooks. Early polling, though, suggests both Prop 26 and Prop 27 (which legalizes online sports betting) are unlikely to pass.
The company also owns Gulfstream Park in Florida and Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland. Sports betting was available in Florida for a few weeks last November before a federal judge deemed the state’s gaming compact violated federal law. Maryland, meanwhile, offers in-person sports betting but has been slow to legalize online wagering.
This move is, in some ways, similar to a recent realignment from another horse racing entity. TVG, formerly an all-horse racing network, rebranded to FanDuel TV earlier this year and now offers a sports-heavy morning slate.
Its other network, TVG2, was also rebranded, to FanDuel Racing. Coincidentally, that network was originally known as HRTV and was owned by The Stronach Group from 2003 to 2015.