PLAINVILLE — Businessman George Carney said he is interested in bringing harness racing to his race track on the Brockton Fairgrounds if Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville closes.
Plainridge owners are trying to sell the track now that the state Racing Commission has eliminated them as applicants for a slot-machine license.
Horsemen there have said they expect the track to close soon as a result.
Carney, a long-time rival of Plainridge, is competing for the slot-machine license with three out-of-state gambling interests. He wants to locate a $200 million slots parlor on the site of a former dog track in Raynham that he owns.
Although his background is in greyhound racing, Carney said he was briefly involved in harness racing at the former track in Foxboro and his grandfather ran trotters in the 1950s with the late actor James Cagney.
The race track in Brockton is designed for thoroughbreds, but Carney said he can widen it for harness racing.
He said he had representatives of the Harness Horsemen’s Association of New England tour the fairground and grandstand last week.
The fairground has not had racing in years.
Carney said he has no interest in buying the 90-acre Plainridge property, but would like to bring harness racing to Brockton because he feels badly for everyone involved in the industry who will soon be out of a job.
Plainridge is expected to close soon because its owners said they needed the additional revenue from slot machines to survive.
They were found to be unsuitable applicants for expanded gambling by the Gaming Commission when an investigation found former President Gary Piontkowski had been taking cash out of the track’s money room.
Carney said it is not the horsemen who are to blame for the situation, but they will be the ones hurt if Plainridge closes.
He said he will apply for Plainridge’s racing dates and move the sport to Brockton.
Carney has had a long, and sometime bitter, competition with Plainridge over issues such as racing dates, simulcasting, and slot machines, but he said he finds no joy in the apparent end for his one-time rivals.
“I’m not happy about it. I’m not gloating about it,” he said.
What he is happy about is the state of his application for slot machines.
His former dog track, Raynham Park, looked like it would be out of business when greyhound racing was banned in Massachusetts. But, he kept the track open and workers employed by continuing with simulcasting.
Now he looks like a solid contender for the one and only slot machine license.
Raynham voters went the the polls last week and approved slot machines at the track with 86 percent of the vote.
The Gaming Commission will make the final decision in December.
by Jim Hand (reprinted with permission by www.thesunchronicle.com)