With No Bill, Suffolk Downs Prepares to Go Dark

Suffolk Downs announced Dec. 30 that it will shut down Jan. 1, 2007, because of the failure of the Massachusetts legislature to authorize the continuation of simulcasts at the state's racetracks. As a result, nearly 200 Suffolk employees will be out of work at the beginning of the year.

The bill, though passed by the Senate, was killed in the House of Representatives by David Flynn, whose district includes the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound track. The Carney family, which owns Raynham-Taunton, is at odds with Plainridge Racecourse, a harness track, over the number of signals it can provide to its customers.

For a bill to be passed in informal session, agreement must be unanimous. Thus, Flynn was able to kill the bill himself. The legislature will not reconvene until Jan. 2, again in informal session.

The state's racetracks were shuttered briefly last April, for the same reason, until enabling legislation was extended until the end of the year.

"This pattern of waiting until enabling legislation expires has got to change," Suffolk Downs president John Hall said. "The legislature wants the tracks to reach an agreement, but we're not dealing with rational people. The resulting uncertainty and interruption of operation is unwarranted and unfair to our employees and horsemen."