When new information surfaced in the 11th hour, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Nov. 14 suspended the emergency hearing it called to vote on a license application for live Thoroughbred racing dates. from 2023 of the group in the hope of developing a racecourse in the town of Hardwick. .
The Commonwealth Equine and Agricultural Center has reached a purchase and sale agreement on the 360-acre Meadowbrook Farm and plans to build a new track. He filed the request in hopes of restoring live racing and revitalizing breeding in the Bay State.
Under state law governing racing and simulcasting, the deadline for denying or approving a live racing license is November 15 each year. The arbitration hearing was not postponed.
The commissioners decided not to vote on the application after learning belatedly that a petition signed by more than the required number of town voters had been submitted to the Hardwick Board of Selectmen. The petition asked council to reverse its earlier decision to clear the track.
This is the latest step in the on-again-off-again development saga.
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At a board meeting in Hardwick on October 25 and following growing opposition to the scheme, the three-member panel voted to delay a vote up or down so that the people of the city can have more influence. On October 27, the council reversed course and voted 3–0 to reject the project, then on November 9, the council reversed course again and voted 2–1 to approve it.
After the 2-1 vote to approve the track, the MGC has scheduled its emergency meeting for Nov. 14 to consider the Commonwealth Equine and Agricultural Center’s request for 2023 race dates. Meanwhile, that November 9 vote gave townspeople an opportunity to collect the required signatures on a petition to put the case back on the line.
Following deliberations during its November 14 session, MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein read the following statement before adjourning.
“The Massachusetts Gaming Commission met today regarding the Commonwealth Equine and Agricultural Center LLC’s application for a license to conduct or conduct a new race meeting. Pursuant to c. 128A, Section 13A, October 27 2022, the Hardwick Board of Selectmen first voted to disapprove the location of the racetrack where the meeting is to be held or held.On November 9, 2022, the Selection Board then reversed its vote and approved the location of the racetrack On November 14, 2022, a petition by 12% of the voters of Hardwick was filed with the Town Clerk protesting the coming into force of this approval, also pursuant to Section 13A. Given the filing of the petition, and with the consent of the applicant, the panel will adjourn the remainder of this hearing until the 13A process is complete.”
According to Hardwick town officials, the council must meet again at a later date to vote again for or against the new track. If they don’t shoot down the proposal, there will be a special election within 45 days of that vote where voters will have the final say.
The Commonwealth Equine and Agricultural Center is directed by Richard Fields. He is one of the owners of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, which owned Suffolk Downs before the East Boston property was sold to a property developer in May 2017. The latest live New England meet, hosted by the New England branch of the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, ended at Suffolk Downs on June 30, 2019.
Paul Umbrello, the executive director of NEHBPA, said the group was pleased with MGC’s November 14 action to temporarily delay the race license vote.
“We live to fight another day,” he said. “It gives us the chance to come back and make the case for live racing in 2023. One day at a time.”