Suffolk Downs received last minute approval of state legislation that allowed them to open for simulcasting on Jan. 1 amidst a great deal of uncertainty that went down to the wire.
Last minute legislation championed by House Speaker Bob DeLeo seemed to have kept the track in the race for the time being.
As Suffolk Downs remains in an uncertain state in regards to racing – with the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NEHBPA) holding a placeholder state license in hopes of continuing racing next year – the track was in even more uncertain territory late last week as its simulcasting license was set to expire.
Owners of the track had not pursued a renewal of the license and had announced the closure of the track, though the NEHBPA had wished to continue the license.
A major problem with that desire was the fact that a racetrack cannot hold a simulcasting license without having a live racing meet scheduled. Suffolk Downs owners did not pursue that live racing license for 2015, thus making the simulcast license null and void at midnight on Dec. 31.
The situation was saved late in the afternoon on Dec. 31 when the House passed a Senate bill that allows simulcasting to continue for 90 days as negotiations continue.
DeLeo said he saw the legislation as a short-term fix that will preserve jobs while a long-term solution is found.
“The extension of the track’s simulcasting rights, although without live racing, will preserve jobs at Suffolk Downs and maintain the 50-50 simulcasting revenue split between the horsemen and the track,” said NEHBPA President Anthony Spadea. “We are thankful for the wisdom and cooperation of all parties. We are pleased that this extension will keep track employees working, and in the short term, it helps to protect the 62 Thoroughbred breeding farms with 6,650 acres of open green space across the state and the rest of the 1,500 direct and non-direct jobs in the Massachusetts Thoroughbred industry.”
While Spadea praised the legislation, he said it is paramount that a lease agreement be worked out with Suffolk Downs in the next three months.
“Nonetheless, those industry jobs and the state-wide Thoroughbred agricultural network, which have an annual economic impact of $116.5 million dollars in Massachusetts, remain at grave risk,” he continued. “It is essential that the horsemen and the owners of Suffolk Downs reach agreement on a two-year lease for live racing during the next 90 days.”
The track remains open for simulcasting this week.