Victory in Massachusetts: HW, Local Advocates Help Defeat Sturbridge Racetrack Proposal

In the two years since New England’s last Thoroughbred track, Suffolk Downs, closed, there have been repeated attempts to bring racing back. These attempts are not, obviously, about reigniting a profitable business. That ship has sailed. Rather, it’s a simple money grab.

When the Mass legislature approved casinos ten years ago, it also created the “Race Horse Development Fund” – to be funded by those new casinos. This money, which should have gone back to the state for education, was supposed to revitalize a dying horseracing industry. It didn’t – Suffolk Downs still failed – and it won’t. Still, there is currently some $20 million sitting in this fund waiting for the horse people to insert their grubby hands. Hence the new-track proposals in Great Barrington, Wareham, Rowley, and, most recently, Sturbridge. For the developers in Sturbridge, the proposed track was also attached to a lucrative sports-betting (betting on real sports involving autonomous human beings) license if and when the legislature legalizes that.

Having previously worked with advocates in Great Barrington and Wareham, HW took an active, leading role in fighting the Sturbridge plan. In addition to sending out 4,500 full-page inserts (below) in the Sturbridge Villager and providing hundreds of materials for activists to disseminate around town, Nicole and I attended a planning-board meeting in September and the town vote Thursday night. We, along with a host of other advocates, were there to greet residents – with the facts, the truth about horseracing – as they arrived to cast their ballots. And, I write happily and proudly, we succeeded, the measure, in the words of the town administrator, “defeated soundly.”

Because these gifts are still dangling – something we intend to address at the state level – it’s likely the racing people will move on to another Mass town. But know this, we will meet them every step of the way, fighting for the innocent and voiceless.

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  1. This is great news. Thank you for all your efforts. It certainly paid off in this case.

  2. Victory for racehorses thanks to Patrick Battuello, Nicole ALL HRW supporters, horse lovers, animal advocates, and animal rights organizations.
    Together, we can get this done.
    Thanks to all voters.
    Years ago, when these obscene “deals” were cut, know that they were done in the secret vaults between politicians and “horsemen” groups.
    There was little to no input from the public.
    Consequently, millions in taxpayers/casino subsidies went to support this dying business.
    Once the ink was signed then a publicly released statement followed something like this: this money will go to improve horse racing to make it financially sustainable so that it will support jobs and eventually bring millions into the public coffers for education.
    NEVER HAPPENED – none of it, just some more lip service from a killing business.
    Unfortunately, in Ontario Canada the Ontario taxpayers are carrying the burden of financially supporting horse racing in Ontario and they have our politicians on the end of the hook, line and sinker.
    In fact, they will now PAY FOR people to actually BREED horses in Ontario.
    Racehorse breeders can claim up to $20,000 per horse that they breed in Ontario if you can imagine that!
    The never ending money pit of horse racing just keeps on going and it’s outrageous and there isn’t one politician in Ontario willing to stand-up for taxpayers and these deals are SECRET for the most part.
    Nobody knows what exactly is in them.
    Who exactly are the people behind the “horsemen” groups AKA HBPA?
    Nobody knows and where is the money going?
    Not one HBPA in North America has ever been NEUTRALLY AUDITED for their books, that I’m aware of, and any inkling of transparency always confirms nefarious financial activities.
    These subsidies MUST END then horse racing is sure to follow.
    To the racehorses: your day of liberation will come and your days of suffering and dying for this business will too.

  3. can you give us more detail on the lip chains, mouth chains, etc. that you mention here. most people have no idea. pictures and stories about what they do to the horse. plus more info on horse ulcers as a result of their miserable lives

  4. Thank you for an excellent article on the realities of Thoroughbreds being used as gambling chips and the consequences of the daily abuse and torture that racehorses are forced to endure. I believe I signed the petition against having horseracing in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. It’s a relief to know that a lot of people spoke up on behalf of the horses with contributions of time, talent, money AND THEIR VOTE. It is a huge relief that a victory was achieved!

  5. And the Massachusetts legislature has voted to just give the left over money to Plainridge Park instead. Purses there are already about 10 times the takeout. Maybe if they built roads or improved schools instead….

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