BROCKTON — Amid ongoing conversations around Massachusetts about the potential revival of thoroughbred horse racing in the state, one of the country’s biggest players in the business has reached out to the owner of the Brockton Fairgrounds and Raynham Park.
Brockton and Raynham businessman George Carney said he has been in communication with the chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, which has a $4 billion market share representing 40 percent of the U.S. horse racing business. Carney said that he expects to meet with Stronach COO Tim Ritvo sometime soon.
“It’s a huge company,” said Carney, declining to speak much further about the subject. “It might be a little premature to talk about that.”
Carney has long been the owner of Raynham Park, which formerly hosted greyhound dog racing, until it was outlawed in Massachusetts in 2010. The facility, located on Route 138, continues to offer simulcast betting for races held in other states.
Last summer, Carney and his son attempted to secure funds from the state’s Race Horse Development Fund to bring back thoroughbred horse racing to the Brockton Fairgrounds for the first time in about 15 years. However, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that oversees the fund decided against the plan for the fairgrounds, stating that the proposed investments into the Brockton facility itself would be against the lawful use of the Race Horse Development Fund.
But in 2016, when he was pursuing horse racing in Brockton, Carney said his goal would be to build a horse track at the Raynham Park site the following year.
Carney said he’s open and eager to deal with the Stronach Group because it could potentially be a way to help him fulfill a longtime goal of bringing horse racing back to its former glory in southeastern Massachusetts.
“I’ve been trying to put this together for many years,” said Carney, when reached recently. “I hope it will come to pass.”
Before last year’s attempt to bring thoroughbred horse racing back to the Brockton Fairgrounds, Carney was pursuing a casino for his private city property, standing behind a plan put together by the major Chicago-based casino company Rush Street Gaming. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission denied the casino bid, citing an untenable market saturation level, due to the expectation that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was going to be building a resort casino just to the south in Taunton.
But even afterward, in October last year, Carney said that, as the Taunton casino project was stumbled with legal issues, he believed the already rejected Brockton bid had a “great chance” of being resurrected and getting a state casino license.
Late last month, tribe suspended its efforts to get the federal government to review and affirm 321 acres of property as its sovereign tribal land, including the site it planned to use for the Taunton casino. That came after casino construction was halted last year when a U.S. District Court judge sided with two dozen Taunton residents who sued the federal government to reverse an initial land in trust designation made in 2015.
Now, as the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s situation has worsened, and its proposed casino plan is up in the air, Carney doesn’t want to talk about it.
“To be honest with you, I really don’t want to make any comment on that,” Carney said. “I really don’t know.”