Success of racinos — horse tracks with slot machines — in Delaware, West Virginia and more recently Pennsylvania and Florida, has operators of other East Coast racetracks salivating.
And the potential for slots has made some of these facilities highly desirable.
Take the case of Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Mass. Nicknamed "Sufferin Downs" because of its rapidly declining product and appearance, the privately-owned track has been surviving on dwindling simulcasting revenue.
Now, because of a political squabble on Beacon Hill in Boston, even that revenue source is in jeopardy since the simulcasting law, extended for one-year last December, is about to expire.
Recently, however, a "white knight" has appeared on the horizon in the person of Richard Fields, a real estate tycoon and former business partner of Donald Trump. Fields reportedly is making a pitch for a majority interest in the property, currently owned by Boston concessionaire Joe O’Donnell, real estate developer John Hall and others. The numbers being thrown around values the property at $100 million.
Fields has been in the news lately as a partner of Steve Swindal, George Steinbrenner’s son-in-law and the man groomed to take over the The Boss’s Yankees operation when the time comes.
Swindall heads Excelsior Gaming, the favorite among three bidders seeking to succeed the New York Racing Operation in running the horse tracks Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont. The group has been touting Fields’ gaming experience in his years with Trump to gain an advantage in the bidding war since current law would permit Aqueduct to install 4,000 slot machines, as an adjunct to the racing activities.
A Fields’ associate confirmed that talks about Suffolk Downs are taking place. Not only would Fields be interested in improving the racing product, he said, but the property also contains hundreds of acres that could be developed.
And then there’s the possibility of slot machines. The political climate may be changing in that regard since Gov. Mitt Romney, a staunch anti-gambling advocate, leaves office in a few days and his successor has not taken a firm position on the matter of slots at tracks.