By Lynne Snierson
The Massachusetts State Senate on July 20 advanced legislation that will allow pari-mutuel facilities in the Bay State to continue to accept wagers on races simulcast from other tracks for the next six months. The current law was set to expire on July 31 and the extension will remain in effect until Jan. 31, 2012.
“There is obviously a necessity to do a brief extension of simulcasting in order to make sure these businesses can keep operating,” said Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, a Democrat from East Boston where Suffolk Downs is located.
Petruccelli added that he remains hopeful that a long-term plan regarding simulcasting and the expansion of gambling can be agreed upon in September, when the Massachusetts House and Senate will re-open debate on the issue. Gov. Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who also represents Suffolk’s district, all favor the expansion of gambling but have yet been able to agree on the best way to implement it in Massachusetts.
The bill also grants the request of Suffolk Downs to reduce the minimum number of live racing days mandated in order to accept simulcasts from 100 days to 80 days. Track officials have maintained that Suffolk needs to run fewer days in order to keep purses at levels high enough for quality racing and to attract bettors. The reduction of dates was a major point of contention in negotiations between track management and the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association before a new contract was signed this past spring.
Previously, the Senate went along with the request for fewer days of live racing, and the measure was tacked on as an amendment to a supplemental spending bill this past May. But the provision was deleted from the bill when passed by the House.
Suffolk officials had no comment.