01/28/2011 9:10PM

Suffolk horsemen block simulcasts over purse dispute


New England's horsemen pulled their consent Friday for Suffolk Downs to simulcast races from Aqueduct after negotiations for 2011 purse levels fell apart.

With racing in the region falling on hard times after casino legislation failed to materialize last summer, the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the East Boston track reached an impasse after Suffolk officials proposed purses of just $75,000 per day over a state-mandated 100-day season. The horsemen also rejected a proposal for more money per day but over fewer dates.

Track officials say Suffolk has paid $3 million more in purses than statutes required despite declining business while all sides worked to secure expanded gaming.

The HBPA countered that Suffolk has been inequitably sharing simulcasting revenue and that the track spent an additional $3.5 million to purchase and promote a nearby greyhound facility in pursuit of expanded gaming. They also indicated the track refused to let them see certain financial records.

“We think if they gave us a reasonable division along the lines of the past few years, sufficient money is there,” said Frank Frisoli, New England HBPA general counsel. “If they bargained with us in good faith and treated us equitably, we would have a deal by now, but they have not done that.”

At $75,000 a day Suffolk would have the lowest purses on the East Coast. To reduce the length of the meet, both sides would need to agree to go to the legislature.

“The unfortunate fact of the matter is that absent expanded gaming, the business model for 100 days of racing here is not sustainable,” said Chip Tuttle, Suffolk Downs chief operating officer. “The horsemen are having a very difficult time coming to grips with that.”