The Only Way Thoroughbred Racing Returns to Massachusetts Is Through Corporate Welfare

A recent Fox Business article reports that a third player has emerged in the quest to bring Thoroughbred racing back to Massachusetts. (When Suffolk Downs closed in June, it left the whole of New England without a single Thoroughbred track.) But what most of these articles fail to clearly explain is that any potential new track in Massachusetts – whether in Great Barrington, Wareham, or the subject of this piece, Rowley – absolutely requires subsidization – corporate welfare – in order to become reality. That subsidization would come in the form of on-site slots and/or by tapping into the “Race Horse Development Fund,” which itself is funded by the state’s three existing casinos. (To understand why this is corporate welfare, see this editorial.)

Later in the article, we’re treated to everyday industry disinformation. Bill Lagario of the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association: “The dynamics have changed. So many people are betting on their phone and computers that, weekdays, the handle is still healthy, the gambling is going on, but you might not have physical crowds there.” Never mind that the Fox writer noted this just a couple paragraphs prior: “Wagering on U.S. horse racing events experienced a significant decline in recent years to roughly $11.2 billion in 2018 from $16 billion in the early 2000s…”

But then Lagario dispenses with the craftiness and just outright lies: “Nationwide, it is not dead….I don’t see the trend going that way. I see people building tracks, I see people reopening tracks, I don’t see anybody selling a track. To me, that’s a clear sign that the industry is pretty healthy.” Facts, Mr. Lagario, are stubborn things:

(from our website) The following U.S. racetracks have closed since 2000. In this same time span, to my knowledge only two new tracks have opened: Pinnacle in Michigan – which, as you’ll see below, closed after only two years – and Presque Isle in Pennsylvania. It must be noted, however, that Presque Isle is a racino – basically, a casino with a legally-mandated horse track attached. In other words, the demand for the racing product itself is going in one direction.

The shuttered tracks (36 and counting):

Suffolk Downs, Massachusetts, closed 2019 after 84 years of abusing horses
Portland Meadows, Oregon, closed 2019 after 73 years of abusing horses
Hazel Park, Michigan, closed 2018 after 69 years of abusing horses
Les Bois Park, Idaho, closed 2016 after 46 years of abusing horses
Atlantic City Race Course, New Jersey, closed 2015 after 69 years of abusing horses
Balmoral Park, Illinois, closed 2015 after 89 years of abusing horses
Maywood Park, Illinois, closed 2015 after 69 years of abusing horses
Sports Creek Raceway, Michigan, closed 2015 after 28 years of abusing horses
Hollywood Park, California, closed 2013 after 75 years of abusing horses
Mount Pleasant Meadows, Michigan, closed 2013 after 28 years of abusing horses
Eureka Downs, Kansas, closed 2011 after 108 years of abusing horses
Atokad Downs, Nebraska, closed 2011 after 55 years of abusing horses
Northwest Montana Fair, closed 2011 after unknown number of years abusing horses
Yellowstone Downs, Montana, closed 2011 after 65 years of abusing horses
Blue Ribbon Downs, Oklahoma, closed 2010 after 47 years of abusing horses
Dayton Days, Washington, closed 2010 after 122 years of abusing horses
Manor Downs, Texas, closed 2010 after 20 years of abusing horses
Pinnacle Race Course, Michigan, closed 2010 after 2 years of abusing horses
Waitsburg, Washington, closed 2010 after 99 years of abusing horses
Walla Walla Fair, Washington, closed 2010 after 144 years of abusing horses
Western Montana Fair, closed 2010 after 96 years of abusing horses
Anthony Downs, Kansas, closed 2009 after 105 years of abusing horses
Rockingham Park, New Hampshire, closed 2009 after 103 years of abusing horses
Solano Fair, California, closed 2009 after 58 years of abusing horses
Bay Meadows, California, closed 2008 after 74 years of abusing horses
Jackson Harness Raceway, Michigan, closed 2008 after 60 years of abusing horses
Great Lakes Downs, Michigan, closed 2007 after 18 years of abusing horses
Rochester Fair, New Hampshire, closed 2007 after 73 years of abusing horses
Woodlands Racecourse, Kansas, closed 2007 after 17 years of abusing horses
Northampton Fair, Massachusetts, closed 2005 after 62 years of abusing horses
Saginaw Valley Downs, Michigan, closed 2005 after 25 years of abusing horses
Sportsman’s Park, Illinois, closed 2002 after 70 years of abusing horses
Brockton Fair, Massachusetts, closed 2001 after 60 years of abusing horses
Garden State Park Racetrack, New Jersey, closed 2001 after 59 years of abusing horses
Playfair Race Course, Washington, closed 2001 after 100 years of abusing horses
Lone Oak Park, Oregon, closed 2000 after 67 years of abusing horses

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  1. There was an article about Arlington racetrack’s future being “uncertain” since its last race is Saturday and no dates have been disclosed for next year. Of course there is the usual whining and weeping about the loss of so many jobs and the negative effects on the economy, but not one mention of the deaths of the real victims of this death track. One person interviewed said he is “moved from madness to tears” for the horsemen – horsemen, hah! animal abusers one and all. The true story of Arlington needs to be told before the racing industry can regain traction on this front and beg funding to continue their wholesale abuse and killing.

  2. I’ve been around this game too long to know exactly what their intentions are and how they go about convincing politicians and the unsuspecting public to shove through yet another killing track.
    They present and promise a utopia where hundreds of jobs will be created, lots of money for the communities, and of course the farmers – we will support them too.
    During this time of convincing they never address the truth about this business or how racehorse’s pay with their lives and how communities get duped because they never do get the money back and horse racing has never repaid this money to the public coffers.
    It’s the same template over and over again and it works for them, but not for anybody else.
    Their lines go something like this: you may need to support us initially, but all that profit will eventually sustain us and you can have all the gravy plus the jobs, jobs, and more jobs.
    We will invest in schools and other great things.
    Yea right.
    In essence, these tracks, these handouts and the politicians who support them are literally ripping-off the younger generation because this money should be going to their future such as education.
    Racetracks weaken our communities and kill racehorses.
    That’s the truth and that’s why it’s long overdue to pull the plug on this vile and corrupt business including immediately stopping ALL financial support and subsidies.
    I was so inspired by the young students who wrote in their letters.
    It’s their future not ours to squander on a bunch of racehorse abusers.

  3. And long may the trend continue, but hopefully at a much faster rate!
    It’s a sad fact though that the racing of horses like dogs is very much like the slaughter of animals to eat and wear.
    The VAST MAJORITY simply prefer to put it at the back of their minds and pretend, or rather ignore it is happening. If they saw animals being slaughtered in absolute terror every day the pick up of vegetarianism and veganism would climb exponentially. The sheer horror and misery and gore would put people off.

  4. If it wasnt for subsidies, and simulcasting, the majority of tracks would close within a few months. The casinos are tied to racing, its the only reason racing still exists in most places Places like pa have enacted law to protect racing, this is not about sport or competition strictly money and gambling. All one really has to do is look back some years at what happened when the casinos and all the purse money came in penn national is a great example along with the 2012 report from new york. Greed, a win at all cost attitude, and the horse being a expendable commodity. While i will agree with the appologists that not everyone is a bad person in racing, i wholeheartedly question why all these good horse caring people are not ripping the door down demading change from the tracks and commissions? If you all care so much why not change the game for the horses you all love like family and treat like children? That speaks to me more then anything, that all these good horse loving people would just allow this all to continue for decades on end, some their entire lives, yet accept it? Because at the end of the day its buissness and money over protecting the horse.

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