After a 15-year hiatus, thoroughbred horse racing is set to return to the Brockton Fairgrounds this summer, with a planned schedule of 30 racing days financed in large part by money generated by the state’s casino industry.
“We’re exciting about bringing thoroughbred horse racing back, and we think it’s going to be well received,” said Chris Carney, whose family has owned the 60-acre fairgrounds for decades.
The Carneys had hoped the property would become home to a $677 million casino and hotel complex, but the state Gaming Commission last week voted down the project. Commission members were concerned it would be too close to a Taunton casino planned by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.
The Carneys had planned to have thoroughbred horse racing at the fairgrounds this summer regardless of the casino vote, but only for this year and possibly next. Now, horse racing on the 5-furlong track may become a mainstay, at least while other development options are considered, Carney said.
“One door closes, another one opens,” he said.
The season would open July 2 and run into September, with racing twice a week.
The dates are not settled, but work crews have already begun replacing some of the track and repairing the inside rail in anticipation of the season.
The fairgrounds will not be the only site of thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts this summer. Suffolk Downs in East Boston announced Thursday that it will hold three two-day racing cards — July 9-10, Aug. 6-7, and Sept. 3-4.
Suffolk Downs had said it would close in 2014 after losing out to Wynn Resorts on a casino license. But it wound up holding three days of racing last year, and track officials now say racing will continue this summer while the owners consider other development options for the 160-acre parcel.
Suffolk Downs will simulcast the Kentucky Derby Saturday and will begin accepting wagers on it on Friday.
While Suffolk Downs and Brockton were both denied casinos, both stand to benefit from the casino industry. Under the 2011 state casino law, a portion of the licensing fees paid by casino developers supports the horse racing industry.
The fund also receives 9 percent of gambling revenue from Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, and will collect 2.5 percent of revenue from the state’s two other commercial casinos when they open. The Mashpee casino is exempt.
Carney said he will ask the Gaming Commission next month for $5 million from the horse racing fund. Almost all of the money will go to purses, the cash prizes paid to a winning horse’s owner, trainer, and jockey.
William Lagorio, president of the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which is helping organize the Brockton races, said the season is meant to benefit local trainers, jockeys, and horse breeders.
Plainridge Park operates harness horse racing at its track. It is planning more than 100 days of racing this year, and will also receive some support from the casino fund.