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With casino license, Suffolk Downs would upgrade racing

Suffolk Downs says it will make a major commitment to its racing operation if approved for the Greater Boston area’s sole casino license.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2012

Suffolk Downs says it will make a major commitment to its racing operation if approved for the Greater Boston area’s sole casino license.

Suffolk Downs officials still need a new partner, a positive result in a referendum of East Boston residents, and approval from the Massachusetts Gambling Commission before they can begin a transformation into a full-fledged casino and resort.

If they’re successful in those areas, they have big plans for horse racing.

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“We have been steadfast in our commitment to thoroughbred racing and this plan illustrates the broad range of racing-related improvements that will greatly enhance the experience of our customers while also appealing to our horsemen and women who work and compete here,” said Richard Fields, principal owner of Suffolk Downs, in a statement.

If Suffolk Downs hits its trifecta, it will be off and running with a $40 million racing improvement plan that will include new racing surfaces (dirt and grass), clubhouse and grandstand renovations, state-of-the-art technology, and construction of new dormitories for backstretch workers.

The clubhouse and grandstand would be modernized with the idea of establishing prime viewing areas for live racing, and the simulcast viewing area would be redesigned. The infield toteboard would be replaced, a jumbo-sized outdoor TV would be installed, the sound system would be upgraded, and a GPS system would be installed to track the horses as they compete.

“If we are successful in earning a gaming license, we will be looking to schedule more special events and enhance our racing program with the return of the Massachusetts Handicap and an open stakes program, and these improvements to our facility would allow us to do so in a way that would best serve our customers and our horsemen and women,” said Chip Tuttle, the track’s chief operating officer.

Joe Sullivan can be reached at jtsullivan@globe.com.
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