No Changes Expected in MA Purse Allocations

Money from casinos will be split 75% to Thoroughbred side, 25% to Standardbreds.

By Lynne Snierson

Despite a last-ditch attempt by Standardbred horsemen to amend future gaming revenue splits with the Thoroughbred industry, the Horse Racing Committee of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided Aug. 5 to stick with the allocation percentage it voted on at its previous meeting. 

The HRC voted that the total revenue to be funneled into the state's Race Horse Development Fund should be split 75% to Thoroughbred horsemen and 25% to Standardbred horsemen. 

The committee will draft its report with the recommendation on how the monies are to be divided, and submit it to the five-member gaming commission for a final vote at a date to be determined.

Peter Goldberg, lobbyist for the Massachusetts Standardbred industry, contended that he was not allowed to make an amendment to the motion on the split when the issue was voted on at the previous meeting. His amendment would have revised the percentage split to 70-30. General counsel Catherine Blue said parliamentary procedure was followed correctly and Goldberg's proposal was in fact a new motion and thus could not be an amendment to an existing one.

Goldberg then made the motion to amend the splits to 70-30, but when no one else seconded the motion, it effectively was killed.

What is at stake is revenue that could potentially be in the tens of millions of dollars for each breed's owners, trainers, breeders, and backstretch workers thanks to 2011 legislation that authorized three destination resort casinos that would commit a percentage of money from casino license fees and annual slot machine revenues to the industry.

Out of each breed's allotment, 80% will enhance purses, 16% goes to breeders, and 4% to backstretch welfare.

The state's Supreme Judicial Court ruled in June that a referendum to repeal the expanded gaming law can appear on the November ballot. Consequently, it is unlikely that the gaming commission will vote on the HRC's recommendation until after the election results are known.

Meanwhile, Penn National Gaming Inc. is moving ahead with construction on what will be the new $225 million Plainridge Park Casino at the state's only harness track. Mohegan Sun, which proposes to develop a $1.3 billion casino at Suffolk Downs, is competing with Wynn Resorts, which plans a $1.6 billion casino two miles from the racetrack, for the single Boston area destination resort casino license.

The MGC is scheduled to choose the Boston license Sept. 12.