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Legislation could remove rights of communities against horse racing

By Monday, Sep 23, 2019 Letters

To the editor:

It has been proposed that Great Barrington should permanently destroy its small-town character in favor of a dying industry with both a checkered past and fast fading future. SSR, known as Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, wishes to resurrect the mothballed fairgrounds and racetrack solely to continue simulcasting in the Boston area.

In anticipation of this, SSR successfully lobbied our legislature for loophole-laden legislation (S.101 and H.13) specifically aimed at sleepy, small-town Massachusetts. These bills, if not for a vigilant group of locals, would have steamrolled the rest of the way unnoticed. This weaponized and radical legislation would strip Great Barrington residents of their usual and customary means of oversight exclusively in favor of industry. It would serve as a statewide precedent eliminating any ability for citizens or town officials to vote whether commercial horse racing is a good fit. The townspeople repeatedly voted against simulcasting between 1999-2001. Under current law, the selectboard and citizens of Great Barrington could dictate that there be no commercial horse racing in their town.

The proposed legislation, S.101 and H.13, removes both of those rights. All concerned citizens should politely request their legislators amend these bills to include language that states, regardless of previous licensing or town approval, there shall be no horse racing in Great Barrington, now or in the future, without an affirmative vote of the town citizens by public referendum.

Scott Plantier