by Lynne Snierson
Suffolk Downs has been given approval to simulcast dog racing by the Massachusetts State Racing Commission, which recently issued a decision to allow the shuttered Wonderland Greyhound Park to transfer its simulcasting license as a way to generate revenue to pay its debts.
Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, estimated the track could handle between $250,000 and $500,000 a month in simulcast bets on dog racing, and generate $30,000 to $60,000 a month in revenue for Wonderland. The commission voted 2-1 Dec. 24 to approve the license transfer following public hearings at which Suffolk Downs management testified that a viable simulcast market for Greyhound racing remains in Greater Boston.
Massachusetts voters banned live dog racing by a referendum that took effect Jan. 1, 2009, though Wonderland was allowed to retain its simulcasting license. The dog track closed its doors and laid off the remaining employees in the summer of 2010 following failed attempts to legalize expanded gaming in the state.
According to state racing commission documents, Wonderland, which is located in Revere next to East Boston, owed more than $1 million to other tracks and vendors and was in debt to Plainridge Racecourse, the only Standardbred facility in Massachusetts, for more than $35,000. The Harness Horsemen’s Association of New England and Plainridge had filed a formal complaint against Wonderland with the commission.
Suffolk Downs holds an option to buy the Wonderland property, and the Thoroughbred track is expected to exercise that option before its expiration July 1, 2011. The two tracks have entered into an agreement to work together on legislation to secure expanded gaming, and if successful in securing one of the limited licenses, intend to develop a destination resort casino in Greater Boston.
“With Wonderland being only a mile-and-a-half away from us, it doesn’t make sense to be competing for a single gaming license,” Tuttle said.
Though efforts to expand gaming stalled last year, and other issues have been given higher priority in the Massachusetts legislature heading into 2011, the tracks remain committed to securing favorable legislation.