Wonderland is shutting down
Wonderland Greyhound Park, the former dog racing facility in Revere, told employees this morning that it is suspending business operations after 75 years, succumbing to state law banning greyhound racing and the Legislature’s failure to pass a measure allowing casino gambling, an official close to the company said.
In a statement, Wonderland president and chief executive Richard Dalton said: "This is an emotional day for all of us, and the most difficult part of it is the hard working people who have been given notice that they no longer have a job. Most of our employees have been with us for decades, and we are trying to be as supportive as we can as they cope with these extremely difficult circumstances."
The track has operated as a simulcast wagering parlor since the voter-approved dog racing ban took effect Jan. 1. And because Beacon Hill failed to pass any type of casino or slot machine legislation, the track missed out on any chance to tap into a new business model.
Long before this morning’s announcement, the state’s betting tracks have warned that the stormy economy and the inability to tap into any type of new business model would destroy their business.
The track posted signs on its front doors this morning announcing the track has closed and that tickets and couchers may be redeemed starting next Monday.
Leslie DeLand, a track worker of 15 years, peered through the windows of the track's main building at 9:50 a.m.
"I just want to thank the governor for helping us lose our jobs," she said, placing blame on the failure to pass an expended gambling bill on Governor Deval Patrick.
DeLand, whose daughter also worked at the track, said she does not know where she will find work now that it's closed. DeLand said she and other workers suspected the shut down was imminent, but didn't know when to expect the news.
"I've just been telling everyone, 'I work today, who knows about tomorrow,'" she said.
Patrick's press secretary, Kyle Sullivan, said in a statement: "We understand that Wonderland has faced an uncertain future since the voters banned dog racing almost two years ago and we are concerned about those jobs. The management of Wonderland and Suffolk Downs have been clear in their intention to bid on a destination resort casino license -- not racinos - and would be able to do so under the governor's plan currently pending in the Legislature. The governor has sent an amendment to the Legislature calling for three destination resort casinos awarded through an open and transparent bidding process. He has been consistent in his opposition to no-bid contracts for track owners. The Legislature has it in its power to return to session and approve that plan to create thousands of jobs."
Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, spent significant political capital during his first year as speaker pushing for expanded gambling at Suffolk Downs, the East Boston track, and Wonderland, both of which are in his district.
“Speaker DeLeo is saddened by the news that several racing facilities, including Plainridge and Suffolk Downs, are eliminating jobs, which support hard-working families – or, in the case of Wonderland, closing. This news underscores the Speaker’s strenuous fight on behalf of these often-forgotten workers. A little more than two weeks ago, Speaker DeLeo warned that anything less than Governor Patrick signing the compromise gaming bill, which would have allowed three resort casinos and two slots venues, posed the risk that workers might be laid off. Now, regrettably, that warning has come to pass.”
Suffolk Downs, meanwhile, is considering laying off employees and has already reduced purses for winning horses. Suffolk Downs has lost nearly $35 million during the last three years, the Globe reported last week.