Suffolk Downs has long been plagued by geographic isolation, dwindling purses and vast swaths of empty seats in the grandstand.
But if an expanded gaming bill passes on Beacon Hill, the outlook for the East Boston racetrack?— opening its 75th season Saturday?— may soon change.
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“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said.
Suffolk is the only active thoroughbred track left in New England, making it tough to attract top competition. Further, Suffolk plans to offer daily purses of $85,000 to $90,000 — a fraction of what other East Coast tracks pay.
However, Suffolk Downs, one of two racetracks in or near House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s district, is considered a contender for one of the state’s resort casinos.
The bill being mulled by Beacon Hill could clear the way for “a world-class destination resort with horse racing as the centerpiece,” according to Tuttle.
“If you look at states where they’ve combined gaming and racing ... without exception, the racing product improves,” he said. “We think we can do that.”