Lawmaker, Suffolk Downs at odds on racing days

Bill seeks 125 live events each year

State House News Service / May 10, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

Suffolk Downs may be looking to reduce its live racing days, but a state representative from Fitchburg has filed legislation raising required live racing days, saying it will give the horse breeding industry a boost.

Representative Stephen DiNatale recently filed a bill to increase live racing days to 125 by 2015. He said he hopes to boost the thoroughbred horse breeding industry in the state by requiring more live races. State law says racetracks need to hold 100 days of live racing to hold on to their simulcasting rights.

But Suffolk Downs is pushing for a law to reduce live race days, arguing that increased competition from lotteries and expanded gambling around the country have taken a toll on horse racing’s share of the wagering market.

The trend pushes New England horsemen to leave for states like New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

If the days are reduced, Suffolk Downs officials argued last week, purses will go up, making it more attractive to horse track betters.

“In horse racing right now, less is more,’’ Chip Tuttle, Suffolk Downs’s chief operating officer, said during a recent legislative hearing on the issue. “All around the country, tracks are reducing racing days and, in many cases, raising purses, both out of necessity, due to lack of horses, and due to consumer demand.’’

But DiNatale, whose district is rich with horse breeding farms, argues that his bill would bring horsemen back to the state and support a struggling industry.

DiNatale said there are many farms around the state involved in horse breeding that would benefit from more racing days.

“We have the potential to strengthen the agricultural sector and create jobs,’’ he said.

The House referred the bill to the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, chaired by state Representative Joseph Wagner and state Senator Karen Spilka. But it awaits Senate approval for committee assignment.