Since being purchased by casino developer Richard Fields in 2007, Suffolk Downs has led the charge for casinos in Massachusetts. They have put together a formidable team of connected insiders and have brought the Commonwealth closer to welcoming casinos then at anytime in our history.
Along the way, Suffolk Downs has managed to garner itself much positive publicity. In summer 2008, Suffolk Downs got much deserved praise with the announcement of a strict “zero-tolerance” policy for horse owners/trainers who engage in the pernicious practice of having old racehorses sold for food or industrial purposes (like glue) once they are no longer spry enough for racing at the track. If horse from Suffolk Downs was slaughtered or caught being auctioned for slaughter, the people who were responsible for that horse would have their right to operate at Suffolk Downs permanently revoked. The extensive press section of Suffolk Downs website proudly touts much of the good publicity this admirable policy generated.
In November 2008, Suffolk Downs even followed through on this policy by announcing that they were coming down hard and banning one horse owner and four licensed trainers when their horses were found by anti-slaughter activists in the “kill pen” of a horse auction, just days after the horse a left Suffolk Downs supposedly bound to work giving rides to kids at a carnival in Florida. Naturally, the good publicity generated by this sanction is touted on the Suffolk Downs website.
Unfortunately for aging racehorses and the integrity of Suffolk Downs ownership, in April 2009 the “zero-tolerance” policy was proved to be a sham and three of the trainers were reinstated. No mention of this development appears on Suffolk Downs website however, guess there was no room.
One has to look at the racing calendar of Suffolk Downs to truly appreciate the trickery of what Suffolk Downs repeatedly called a “zero tolerance” policy on horse slaughter. Racing at Suffolk Downs goes from May to November, the trainers caught dumping their washed up horses to the slaughterers were busted in November and reinstated in April. This means that zero percent of a “zero tolerance” punishment was applied when there was actually racing at Suffolk Downs. Ouch, I bet baseball players busted for steroids wish that MLB had a “zero tolerance” policy like this, so they could serve their suspension in the off-season and not have to be bothered by missing any games. The reality of their tolerance for horse slaughter has not stopped Suffolk Downs from continuing to take credit for the fake “zero tolerance” they touted far and wide in 2008, there are many examples but two are this article from October 2009 and this article from just last month.
I feel genuinely bad for the people who work at Suffolk Downs and are in danger of losing their jobs if Suffolk Downs closes down. But, there are literally thousands of people in hundreds of businesses in this state who are in the same situation. If we are going to use slot machines to save jobs there needs to be a fair and open process to decide which ones (my vote is for fishermen), there is no good reason Suffolk Downs should just be handed the golden ticket by fiat of the Speaker and there may be very good reasons that the golden ticket should not go to the people running Suffolk Downs. If they can’t be honest about their policies on something as universally loathed as horse slaughtering, perhaps they shouldn’t be trusted to run slots. I know, I know, people will say that the racing commission already licenses Suffolk Downs so there’s no need for silly formalities. The truth is that Suffolk Downs has not been vetted in the least and the Massachusetts State Racing Commission is a bit of a joke, but maybe that’s a story for another post.