Brockton Fair owner applies to offer horse racing in ‘15
The owner of a long-closed horse track in Brockton filed an application Tuesday with the state Gaming Commission to bring thoroughbred horse racing back to that city in 2015, so long as the state’s first slot machine parlor is open and contributing money to help fund the track.
“That slot parlor money is very attractive and makes it viable to race horses in Brockton,” George Carney, owner of the Brockton Fairground, said after making his filing in Boston.
Carney is counting on a provision of the casino law passed in 2011 that mandates that a healthy percentage of gaming revenues from the state’s casinos and slots parlor go to support the horse racing industry.
The state-approved slots parlor under construction at Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville could open as early as next summer, depending on a statewide referendum question on the ballot on Nov. 4. That question asks voters whether the casino law should be repealed.
Revenue at Plainridge may exceed $200 million a year, during any period in which it operates without competition from casinos now planned for Springfield and Everett, according to estimates submitted to the state commission.
At that level of revenue, millions of dollars would be available for use as purses in any thoroughbred racing in the state in 2015. The only site that currently offers the sport is Suffolk Downs, but its managers say they are not interested in continuing what has become a money-losing operation after the track closes for the season — and maybe forever — on Saturday.
Carney’s application stipulates two contingencies: receiving funds from slots parlor revenue, and that Suffolk Downs is not running races next year.
But there is at least one plan to keep Suffolk Downs running. The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents about 900 horse owners and trainers at the track, said Monday it would file an application for racing before the deadline Wednesday.
The horsemen’s group is trying to put together a deal to lease Suffolk Downs from its owners to run racing there for at least 2015 and maybe longer. Suffolk Downs managers who met with the horsemen Monday said they were open to such a plan.
“Our intent is to hold a race meet at Suffolk Downs in 2015,” Anthony Spadea, president of the horsemen’s association, said in a statement. But, he added, “This issue is extremely complicated.”
The commission agreed last week that it would accept even the barest expression of interest as a legitimate application before the filing deadline in hope of preserving the thoroughbred industry by allowing more time for plans to jell. The deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“We want to do everything we can to help the thoroughbred industry, and we are very pleased to have one application filed and possibly more to be filed before the deadline,” said Hank Shafran, spokesman for the commission.
The scramble over Suffolk Downs, an East Boston landmark since the 1930s and a major employer, began Sept. 16, when the commission awarded the Greater Boston casino license to Wynn Resorts, rejecting a rival proposal from Mohegan Sun that would have kept racing at Suffolk Downs.
Carney wants up to 60 days of racing at the Brockton Fair, where horse racing was a summer staple between 1956 and 1972. Racing resumed in 2001, but has been closed since then, Carney’s application reads.
Brockton Fair, a ⅝ -mile track on a 60-acre parcel near Route 123, is a shorter distance than many horse owners and trainers said they prefer. The mile-long track at Suffolk Downs is more to their liking.
Carney is the longtime owner of Raynham Park, a former dog-racing track. Carney operates simulcast horse racing at Raynham, with video feeds of live racing from other tracks.