By Lynne Snierson
An agreement between the New England Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association and the management of Suffolk Downs on a conditional deal for the 2014 meet was reached Feb. 22. But with uncertainty regarding whether the track's gaming partner will win the single casino license reserved for the Greater Boston region, the purse amounts, number of live racing days, and other terms must still be decided.
Mohegan Sun, which has partnered with the track and proposed a $1.3 billion development on the racetrack grounds, is competing with Wynn Resorts, which wants to develop a $1.6 billion project to be located just two miles from Suffolk Downs. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission won't award the license until May at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the horsemen accepted the track's proposal to host a live meet from May 3 through Sept. 1, but that is contingent upon Mohegan Sun winning the casino license. Under terms of the deal, should Wynn Resorts prevail, NEHBPA members will receive a maximum of 60 and a minimum of 30 days notice of the track's continuing plans to operate.
"Total purse funding and possible casino construction timelines will not be known prior to the start of the 2014 race meet. These uncertainties make it difficult to address at this time any further extension of the meet beyond Sept. 1," the NEHBPA said in a statement.
Attorneys for both sides are continuing discussions
Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said, "We look forward to a substantial race meet in 2014 and will continue to work with the NEHBPA and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on measures to ensure the long-term viability for racing here in conjunction with Mohegan Sun Massachusetts earning a gaming license."
Although Suffolk Downs pledged to continue live racing for at least 15 years should Mohegan Sun win the license, management has acknowledged that it cannot continue to do so otherwise. Under state law, if Mohegan Sun gets the license, the racing and gaming operations would have to be entirely separate and Mohegan has stated it has no interest in racing.
The Mohegan/Suffolk proposal, which would be built on the City of Revere side of the racetrack grounds, must next win a Feb. 25 referendum when voters will be asked to approve becoming the host community.