By Lynne Snierson
Suffolk Downs has reduced its simulcasting operation in the wake of the ongoing dispute with the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association over a contract for the 2011 live racing season.
In a message posted on the track’s website Feb. 14, Chief Executive Officer Chip Tuttle wrote, “We regret that our simulcast menu has been reduced due to the actions of the New England HBPA and other HBPA affiliates around the country. At issue is a purse agreement for the 2011 race meet. The HBPA's actions show utter contempt for the bettors who have supported its races for years and complete disregard for the hundreds of employees at Suffolk Downs who face dramatically reduced work schedules as a result of the lack of simulcast product. At the same time, it makes it increasingly difficult for us to generate the purse revenue that the HBPA claims is its motivation. We do not know when this situation will improve and we regret any inconvenience this may cause you.”
The NEHBPA and Suffolk have been embroiled in a bitter disagreement over the number of live racing days, the purse structure, and the split of the simulcast revenue. As a result, the NEHBPA withdrew its consent for races from the New York Racing Association to be simulcast in Massachusetts and then horsemen in Ohio, Florida, Oregon, and Maryland also pulled their signals.
The track will now be closed on Wednesdays, and will offer full card simulcasting only on Thursdays through Mondays. A racetrack source said that staffing has also been cut back. At this juncture, no negotiating sessions between the HBPA and track management are scheduled.