Massachusetts House OKs Dates, Simulcast Bill

By Lynne Snierson

One day after the Massachusetts State Senate sent over a bill that would extend simulcasting for six months and reduce the number of mandated live racing days from 100 to 80, the House approved the measure July 21. The bill now goes to Gov. Deval Patrick for his signature.

The number of live racing days in 2011 was one of the major points of contention in a new contract hammered out between track management and the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association this past spring. As a means to reach settlement, horsemen ultimately agreed not to oppose the track's dates reduction request in the legislature.

"The reduction in our live racing schedule to 80 days allows us to preserve the best possible quality of racing for the fans and to reward the loyal horsemen of New England with higher average daily purses," Suffolk Downs chief executive officer Chip Tuttle said. "We appreciate the cooperation of the NEHBPA and the Massachusetts breeders toward passing this legislation, and we look forward to working together to enhance racing and breeding in the commonwealth."

The bill will also extend the right of the state's three pari-mutuel facilities to accept wagers on races simulcast through Jan. 31, 2012. Had both houses of the legislature not taken action the current simulcast bill would have expired July 31.

The governor, Senate president, and Speaker of the House, who represents the district where Suffolk Downs is located, have announced they plan to renew debate on the expansion of gambling in Massachusetts after Labor Day.

Suffolk Downs has entered into a strategic alliance with Caesar's Entertainment to develop a world-class casino on the property should the measure be approved and the track be awarded one of the licenses.

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