The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved the sale of East Boston’s Suffolk Downs racetrack to Boston-based HYM Investments with plans for the current owners to continue to use the 161-acre property for racing events in 2017 and 2018.
Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC will pay $20,000 a month to the new owners to continue live racing and simulcasting under the terms of a lease submitted to the gaming commission.
The real estate closing is scheduled for April 27, according to documents submitted to the commission.
That lease will allow Sterling Suffolk to hold the six days of live racing it has scheduled for 2017, and the terms of the sale also call for the parties to determine by Sept. 25 whether the new owner’s development plans will allow for live racing at Suffolk Downs in 2018. The lease would terminate on Jan. 31, 2018, unless HYM’s redevelopment timeline allows for a continuation of horse racing activities throughout the calendar year, which could trigger an extension.
Chip Tuttle, CEO of Suffolk, said his organization will retain responsibility for property maintenance at Suffolk Downs and has taken steps to protect the integrity of live racing at the track by excluding the new owner from becoming involved in certain racing operations.
“In addition to us continuing to have the same access to the property, control of the property, we’ve actually restricted the landlord from access to sensitive areas such as the money room and other areas that might affect the integrity of racing,” Tuttle said. “We’ve tried to look ahead and see what concerns the commission might have proactively and address those in the lease.”
HYM Investment Group Managing Director Thomas O’Brien declined to comment.
Developers had eyed Suffolk Downs as the potential site of a casino, but East Boston voters rejected the idea. Everett subsequently prevailed over Revere and was chosen to host a casino, which is under construction.
The thoroughbred horse racing industry has been on the decline in Massachusetts since at least 2001, when there were 1,526 races over 179 racing days in the state. Massachusetts hosted 36 races across three racing days in 2015 — a 98 percent decline in both number of races and racing days, according to The Jockey Club, which works to promote thoroughbred horse racing in the United States.
Suffolk Downs, the state’s busiest and most well-known horse track, ceased regular live racing in October 2014. The track hosted the state’s only three days of live racing in 2015, hosted six total race days in 2016 and has six race days scheduled for 2017.
Material from State House News Service was included in this report.