11/13/2015 11:41AM

Suffolk Downs granted six live dates for 2016

Barbara D. Livingston
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved six days of live racing next year at Suffolk Downs.

Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Mass., will hold six days of live racing next summer and early fall under a plan approved by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday.

The plan is double the number of race dates that Suffolk ran this year following an agreement between the track and the state’s horsemen’s group to put on three cards in the fall. Purse distribution for the six dates will be approximately $500,000 a day, according to planners, roughly equal to the purse distribution for the three dates in 2015.

The dates for live racing will be July 9-10, Aug. 6-7, and Sept. 3-4, on a Saturday-Sunday schedule. Suffolk officials had said earlier that a total of approximately 30,000 people attended the three days of live racing this year at the track. For the live-race days, Suffolk also held food-truck festivals and invited customers to tailgate along the track in an attempt to create a fair-like atmosphere.

“The idea was to expand on the concept next year,” Lou Raffetto, a racing consultant hired by Suffolk to oversee this year’s live racing at the track, said on Friday.

The gambling commission also approved an application by the owners of the Brockton Fairgrounds for as many as 30 live racing dates. The fairgrounds is located south of Boston and has a five-furlong dirt track. The location has not hosted live horse racing since 2000, and the track does not currently have a rail.

Both tracks plan to use money generated by casinos in the state for purse supplements. Brockton’s owners said they would seek to use $3 million from the Race Horse Development Fund to provide $100,000 a day in purses. The commission approved Brockton’s plans under the condition that the owners provide a detailed plan for the race meet at least 30 days prior to holding a live race.

“We’re excited,” Chris Carney, whose family owns the fairgrounds, told commissioners, according to news reports. “We’re really looking forward to it because this time, we don’t have to reach into our own pockets.”

Brockton’s owners are seeking approval from the gambling commission for a casino at the fairgrounds. The commission is expected to issue a decision on the casino sometime early next year.

Long term, the New England HBPA has said it is working on a plan to raise funding to construct a new equine facility in the state to host racing meets. Suffolk’s owners have said they plan to redevelop the property after 2016.