A Plan To Bring Standardbred Racing To The Berkshires

It may be about sports gambling.

Thoroughbred racing is dead in New England as the last remaining thoroughbred racetrack in the six-state area, Suffolk Downs, closed earlier this summer. The Boston site will be redeveloped with housing and office space on the property. Suffolk Downs is just the latest racetrack to be shuttered as the horse racing industry continues to wither away. But the former owners of the Suffolk Downs property want to stay in the horse racing business, Sterling Suffolk, still has simulcasting and online betting businesses. But Sterling Suffolk needs a place in the state to race to maintain the betting businesses and the company has its eyes on Great Barrington and an old track that held its last race in 1998. The Sterling Suffolk plan is to hold some standardbred races at the old facility in the fall of 2020 after the grandstand is refurbished. Whether that happens is in the hands of both Great Barrington and Massachusetts elected officials.

Massachusetts elected officials are considering if they should legalize sports betting. There are some casinos in the state but none in the Berkshires which is a New York City tourist magnet in the summer. There is thoroughbred summer racing at Saratoga in New York which is about one hour away from Great Barrington. The Sterling Suffolk owners are not going to compete with Saratoga but should the government give the group approval to operate in the Berkshires they could also go after a casino and a sports betting license should Massachusetts adopt legalized sports gambling. That would more than likely make it worthwhile for the group to put renovation money into the Great Barrington facility. The horse racing industry has been in a decline for a half century and whatever is left of the industry has been saved by states that have opted to legalize gambling and allowing track owners to build racinos.