Suffolk Downs, celebrating its 75th season this year, has a vision for the future, and it’s tied to expansion of gambling.
The Massachusetts racetrack July 7 unveiled its latest expansion plan should it get casino-style gambling. State lawmakers are currently considering bills that would authorize free-standing casinos, racetrack slot machines, or both.
The legislature has until July 31 to come up with one bill. The House supports racetrack slots and a few resort casinos, while the Senate has rejected gaming at tracks.
Suffolk officials said the first phase of proposed project would include renovation of the grandstand and clubhouse, as well as construction of complex that would offer a hotel, restaurants, retail shops, and gaming. Renovation of racing facilities would include a “greatly enhanced live racing and simulcasting experience,” track officials said.
Suffolk sits on about 163 acres just east of Boston. In 2008 it partnered with neighboring Wonderland Greyhound Park, now closed for live racing but open for full-card simulcasts, to pursue gaming opportunities.
“As a popular destination for entertainment and gaming for the last 75 years, our vision positions Suffolk Downs as the region’s premier resort-style entertainment and gaming destination for the next 75 years,” Richard Fields, principal owner of Suffolk Downs, said in a statement. “As the legislature and the governor work to finalize their approach on expanded gaming, our ownership is prepared to immediately invest hundreds of millions of dollars to create a development that will produce thousands of good jobs, enhance the area’s strong tourism base, and generate revenue for the state and neighboring communities while preserving New England’s last remaining Thoroughbred racetrack.”
Suffolk is the only track in the region offering live Thoroughbred racing. Rockingham Park in New Hampshire pulled the plug almost 10 years ago, and the remaining tracks on the Massachusetts fair circuit haven’t raced in several years.
Suffolk opened in 1935 and has hosted some of the sport’s top horses. Officials said the track handles about $200 million wagers, employs about 1,500 people, and sustains about 2,300 jobs in the racing and breeding industry statewide.
“Suffolk Downs has been a responsible neighbor for generations,” Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said. “We are committed to a comprehensive, transparent public process that will address key community issues like traffic, infrastructure, and public safety. In addition to the jobs that would be created and the revenue that would be generated for the state, Suffolk Downs is committed to spending millions of dollars with Massachusetts-based businesses for the daily operation of the facility and developing programs to enhance local businesses in conjunction with our proposed development.”
Track officials are focusing on the project’s potential employment benefits. They said construction would create 1,500-2,00o jobs, and the finished facility about 2,250 permanent jobs. In addition, the 1,500 jobs in racing would be protected, officials said.