Suffolk Downs and Horsemen Continue Dialog

By Lynne Snierson

Negotiating teams for Suffolk Downs and the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association were back at the bargaining table the afternoon of Feb. 17, but the two sides have yet to end their stalemate over a contract for 2011.

“We had a good dialogue today and some of it is encouraging,” said Chip Tuttle, chief executive officer of the East Boston, Mass., track. “There are some places where we still have additional work to do to reach a consensus. We will keep the process moving forward.”

The horsemen, who raced without a contract in 2010, and track management remain at odds over the allocation of purses, the number of live racing days, and the percentage of the revenue split from simulcasting. While agreement was not reached in Feb. 17 session, the talks denote some progress in what has been an acrimonious dispute for almost four weeks. The horsemen have maintained that the share of the simulcasting revenue is the crux of the problem, while a racetrack source who requested anonymity indicated that the purse structure and number of live racing days are more at issue.

“The NEHBPA conferenced with representatives of Suffolk Downs this afternoon. It anticipates receiving a proposal in the very near future from Suffolk Downs which will be presented to the Board of Directors of the NEHBPA,” said Frank Frisoli, general counsel for the horsemen. “The NEHBPA will have no further comments on this matter pending receipt of a proposal.”

Meanwhile, the NEHBPA has not restored its consent for races from the New York Racing Association to be simulcast, as Suffolk had requested in a letter sent to the group on Feb. 15. In that same missive, Tuttle also asked the horsemen to encourage other HBPA chapters to restore their signals, but races from Ohio, Florida, Oregon, and Maryland are still being withheld. While Suffolk has trimmed its hours of simulcast operation and cut back staffing, Rockingham Park, which is located only 30 miles north of Boston, is seeing an increase in business from Massachusetts bettors according to officials.

No further talks between the NEHBPA and Suffolk Downs are scheduled at this time.

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