04/01/2006 1:00AM

Simulcasting halted at Suffolk

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Suffolk Downs was forced to close for simulcasting indefinitely on Saturday because the two branches of the Massachusetts legislature were unable to agree on a bill allowing simulcasting before existing laws expired March 31.

Tracks in Massachusetts have been operating under an extension passed at the beginning of the year. The laws that regulate offtrack betting were originally lumped into a bill that would allow slot machines at the state's four parimutuel facilities. The state Senate approved that measure last year, but when the House failed to take it up before the start of 2006, they passed a three-month extension of the old laws, expecting the slots vote to come up by the end of March. That vote is now slated for Wednesday, and the House and Senate disagreed on how long another extension should last. The legislature returns to session on Monday.

"We're hopeful that the matter can be resolved quickly, but in the meantime roughly 250 people are temporarily out of work," said Suffolk Downs media director Christian Teja.

Horses are already on the Suffolk grounds preparing the 2006 live racing season, scheduled to begin May 6. The track opens for training Monday morning.

Slots supporters were dismayed last week when House Speaker Sal DiMasi, a Boston Democrat, indicated he wasn't likely to support the bill and called racing "a dying game."