09/25/2014 3:00PM

Massachusetts Gaming Commission explores ways to save racing

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BOSTON  - With the tight deadline for racing dates applications fast approaching, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is looking for ways to help live Thoroughbred racing continue in the state.

“We’re trying to keep the door open, ” said commissioner James McHugh during an open hearing Thursday.

Nonetheless, the door was slammed shut when the MGC voted on Sept. 16 to award the single Boston area casino license to Wynn Resorts instead of to gaming rival Mohegan Sun, which had partnered with Suffolk Downs and proposed developing a world-class casino on racetrack grounds.

Immediately thereafter, the owners of Suffolk Downs, who would be forced to compete with a $1.6 billion Wynn casino located two miles away upon its completion, announced live racing is coming to an end at the 79-year-old track and they will not apply for 2015 dates.

During the hearings, the five-member commission decided to allow “placeholder” applications indicating an operator’s intent to race as long as the paperwork is filed by the Oct. 1 deadline. They then directed MGC’s legal team to review current legislation governing racing to determine where the commission has administrative flexibility on the matter of completed applications.

The owners of the Brockton Fair Grounds have stated they intend to file an application for a 60-day meet in 2015. But the facility, which has a five-furlong dirt track and no turf course and has been idle since 2001, has stalls for fewer than 200 horses and no dormitories or backside facilities for workers.

It was expressed during the hearing that the state’s Thoroughbred industry is best served if there is live racing at Suffolk Downs, where the racing strip is one-mile and there is a seven- furlong turf course and chute along with a full stable area, and the commissioners concurred with that opinion.

The commissioners also received an update on coordinated efforts by the Massachusetts Division of Labor and Workforce’s Rapid Response Team and Suffolk Downs to assist track employees who will be laid off and other industry stakeholders affected by the track’s impending closure.

The final day of live racing is Oct. 4.