OTB And Harness Horse Racing Site, Scarborough Downs Officially Closes

Written By Veronica Sparks on June 21, 2022
Harness horse racing in Maine ends at Scarborough Dpwms

The last Monday in May saw the end of an era for Maine horse racing. The off-track betting (OTB) business, Scarborough Downs, has officially and completely closed its doors.

Operations have now been completely shut down at the site, which opened its doors in 1950 and formerly hosted live harness racing events. The closure ends the employment of all 10 on-site employees.

“[With] the expenses, it just all doesn’t add up for me to hold on,” said Denise Terry, Scarborough Downs OTB President.

As one Maine gambling outlet closes, another avenue opens with legal sports betting launching soon.

Closure follows years of financial struggle for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough Downs isn’t new to financial struggle, as it has experienced financial difficulty for almost 20 years. Since the early 2000s, both licensed horse ownership and overall gambling on horse races have seen a significant decline overall.

The track slowly fell into disrepair amid those difficulties. In 2018, Scarborough Downs was sold to a group of developers, Crossroads Holdings LLC. “We’ve always been strong proponents of the harness racing industry here in the state of Maine,” said spokesman Michael Sweeney. “We want to do the right thing by the industry.”

In November 2020 the track decided to host its very last live harness race. After the final racing event, the venue decided to keep only its OTB club open to offer patrons simulcast gambling on horse races.

Horse racing in Maine saw even more disappointment last month. The Northern Maine Fair decided to end its yearly harness horse racing event, which was a century-long tradition.

The last week of May 2022 saw the final business of the Scarborough Downs OTB club. Sweeney says permanent closure is in the track’s best interest. “They need to move forward with a more modern state-of-the-art facility,” he said. “And that’s something that Scarborough Downs just cannot provide the industry.”

Could Maine sports betting legislation have saved Scarborough Downs?

During the last week of April, Maine’s sports betting bill was signed into law by Governor Janet Mills. House bill 585 officially made sports betting in Maine legal, but only when controlled by Wabanaki tribes, which are:

  • The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians
  • Penobscot Nation
  • Passamaquoddy Tribe

These tribes will own exclusive rights to offer retail and online sportsbooks in Maine.

As far as Maine retail sportsbooks go, in-person betting will be allowed at the following Maine facilities:

  • Hollywood Casino in Bangor
  • Oxford Casino
  • OTB parlors in the state

Terry said she supported legislation to move Maine sports betting forward, particularly at OTB facilities like Scarborough Downs. However, online betting seems to be the future of sports betting, so the legislation likely would not have saved the track.

Regarding the efforts to save Scarborough Downs, Terry seems to think it would have been a losing battle. “Unfortunately, I was not able to figure a way to make it all continue,” she said.

Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
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