By Lynne Snierson
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed into law the bill passed by both houses of the legislature to extend simulcasting in the state and is standing firm in his stance that only one slots venue will be allowed should gambling be expanded and there be no guarantee it will be given to a racetrack.
During an interview with Boston radio station WTKK, Patrick stressed that the sole slots license be awarded through an open competitive bid process. Last July, expanded gambling legislation that had passed both chambers died on the last day of the summer session because Patrick, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray could not reach accord on the number of destination resort casinos and slots venues, although they all support the expansion of gambling. DeLeo, who represents the district where Suffolk Downs is located, insisted on slots at two racetracks.
There are three remaining pari-mutuel facilities in the Bay State. In addition to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Race Course offers live harness racing and Raynham Park, a former Greyhound track, offers simulcasting only now that live dog racing has been outlawed in the state.
Patrick said that he supports the construction of three so-called destination resort casinos and will allow the one slots venue, to be located anywhere in the state, in order to break the stalemate and get the deal done to create revenue and jobs. Debate on the issue has been tabled until after Labor Day, but DeLeo and Murray have stated repeatedly that they are also eager to expand gambling. The tax rate on expanded gambling facilities, the regulatory framework, and other details must be hammered out in negotiations according to the governor.
Suffolk Downs announced last spring that it entered into a strategic alliance with Caesar’s Entertainment to develop a casino on the grounds should the deal get done and it be awarded one of the licenses.
Patrick’s signature on the simulcasting bill extends the rights of the three tracks to accept wagers on races sent from other tracks through January 31, 2012. The current simulcasting law was set to expire on July 31. The bill also cut the mandatory number of live racing days in order to simulcast from 100 to 80. In response, Suffolk Downs announced that beginning on Aug. 1, the track will expand its schedule from three to four days of live racing per week and will now race on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.