05/30/2001 11:00PM

Simulcast dispute at Suffolk


A bill that would legalize account wagering and expand simulcasting in Massachusetts has pitted Suffolk Downs against its own horsemen.

The bill, which was introduced Wednesday to a joint committee of the Massachusetts legislature, would award the bulk of revenue from simulcasting to purses. Suffolk officials said they would fight the bill in its current form because of the provision, which would cost the track $4 million a year.

"I'm in a catch-22 here," said Robert O'Malley, part-owner of Suffolk. "If I don't get a bill, I have to close. If I get this bill, I still have to close."

Horsemen and racetracks worked together last year to draft and support legislation that would bring telephone betting to Massachusetts and renew the state's simulcasting laws, which expired last year. But that effort failed because of infighting between the Thoroughbred and greyhound lobbies.

Now, after reaching an agreement with the state's dog tracks, the Thoroughbred lobby is itself divided.

"We're making ourselves available to all parties to solve this thing or do the appropriate analysis of the numbers," said Robert Hutchinson, the chairman of the Massachusetts Horse Racing Commission. "We have to get something done here, and it probably needs to happen in the next several days."