Suffolk Outlines Position on Live Racing

Suffolk Outlines Position on Live Racing
Photo: Chip Bott
Suffolk Downs

Suffolk Downs said Jan. 9 it is committed to live racing should its new partner, Mohegan Sun, win the license to build a casino on track property.

In a letter to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Suffolk Downs said it "committed to continuing live racing through at least the initial 15-year duration of Mohegan Sun Massachusetts' gaming license should (the company win the license) and develop and open a gaming facility (at the track)."

The letter did not address the options should Mohegan Sun not be awarded the gaming license.

"We take very seriously our role as stewards of a 79-year tradition in the commonwealth and our responsibility to our loyal workforce and horsemen," Suffolk Downs principal owner Richard Fields said in a release. "We have worked hard and invested much over the last several years to ensure the legacy of New England's last active Thoroughbred racing venue."

Suffolk Downs also said the commitment to live racing hinges on revenue formulas for horse racing remaining unchanged. The state gaming law created the Racehorse Development Fund, which will receive a share of gaming revenue for purses and breed development.

Any money for capital improvements, however, will have to come from Suffolk Downs. Track officials said revenue from the lease agreement with Mohegan Sun will allow it to "make the substantial investment required to fulfill our longstanding commitment and give racing its best chance to survive."

Mohegan Sun earlier said it has no interest in being a partner in the racetrack.

Track officials earlier announced about $40 million in planned improvements should a casino be located on the property.

Suffolk Downs also confirmed that should the Mohegan Sun casino be built, the barn area will have to be moved elsewhere on the property. If it can't be kept on racetrack property, the stable area will be moved off site "within a reasonable distance of the venue," officials said.

Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun need more than a casino license. The community of Revere, on which about 50 acres of track property sit, must re-vote on the casino project; residents there already approved it, but East Boston voters defeated the referendum.

Meanwhile, track officials in a packet presented to the MGC said that from 2007 to 2013, racetrack revenue totaled $87.6 million versus $134.5 million in expenses. During that period Suffolk Downs said it overpaid purses by $13.9 million.

Suffolk Downs paid $9.3 million in purses in 2013. Estimates suggest the Racehorse Development Fund could push that figure to $27 million a year by 2019.

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