Crosby: Thoroughbred racing can be saved

Crosby: Thoroughbred racing can be saved

Asks lawmakers for control of horse racing funds

THE STATE’S ON-THE-ROPES thoroughbred racing industry can be resurrected, the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said in a letter to the Legislature on Wednesday.

Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the commission, acknowledged in his letter that the thoroughbred industry is on the verge of losing its one operating track, which plans to hold only six race days this summer. But Crosby urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would consolidate control over the industry and its various revenue streams with the commission.

“It is the commission’s belief that with a reorganized regulatory structure, and empowering the Gaming Commission to strategically manage all the thoroughbred revenue streams – including the Race Horse Development Fund – that there is a legitimate chance of designing a sustainable strategy for thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts.”

The Race Horse Development Fund, which relies on casino gambling taxes and licensing fees, is used to bolster horse race purses. The fund has helped the harness racing track at Plainridge Park Casino triple the size of its purses, double the amount of on-site bets, increase the number of race days from 80 to 125, and boost the number of 1-year-old standardbred horses from 36 to 51.

Suffolk Downs, a thoroughbred track that lost out in its bid to land a casino license, recently sold its property to a developer and is preparing to shut down.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Crosby’s letter was a response by the commission to various initiatives on Beacon Hill to raid the Race Horse Development Fund to help balance next year’s budget, to increase support for the Community Preservation Act, and to aid sex-trafficking victims.

“Unless the Legislature decides to change its long-standing policy commitment in support of sustaining thoroughbred and standardbred racing in Massachusetts, it would be unfortunate to divert significant portions of the Race Horse Development Fund before the full legislative strategy to sustain horse racing has been implemented and tested – notwithstanding that we fully appreciate that these are very difficult fiscal times,” Crosby said.