Sears to pursue racetrack simulcasting proposal

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(Host) Key lawmakers who support the revitalization of the Green Mountain Race Track in Pownal say they’re disappointed to learn that Governor Douglas opposes year round simulcasting at the track. Supporters of the track argue the project will not be economically feasible under these conditions.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When Bennington Senator Dick Sears introduced legislation this week allowing year around simulcasting of races at the Green Mountain Race Track in Pownal, Sears expected the strong support of Governor Jim Douglas. During the gubernatorial campaign, Douglas talked about supporting efforts to reopen the track to stimulate the economy of southwestern Vermont and the governor said he would back an expansion of simulcasting. The simulcasting option allows people to see races from other parts of the country and to place bets on these races.

Douglas says he’ll oppose Sears’s bill because the governor only supports simulcasting during a Vermont racing season, on either race days or non-race days, but not in the track’s off season. Senator Sears says Douglas’ new position comes as a surprise:

(Sears) “During the campaign it was my understanding that he would support simulcasting year round. It was particular to Green Mountain Park and it was a discussion about Pownal and that was my perception of it.”

(Host) But Douglas says he never promised to support year round simulcasting at the Pownal track:

(Douglas) “Well I wasn’t very specific at all. I indicated during the campaign that I would a support an expansion of simulcasting and did not elaborate as far as I can recall at that point.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he opposes year round simulcasting because it could lead to increased gambling in the region:

(Douglas) “That is too much a foot in the door towards off-track betting, video parlors – gambling beyond the scope that I think is appropriate for the state. I support a reintroduction of racing at the track, but we need to contain it. We want to be sure that there aren’t any inappropriate influences on the community.”

(Kinzel) Sears says year round simulcasting is needed to make the project economically viable and he says he plans to push ahead with his bill:

(Sears) “I think we ought to just let the legislative process work and worry about the governor’s position when and if the bill gets to his desk. Obviously I’m more than willing to work with the administration to fashion a bill that they can support, but I do think you need to make simulcasting available year round.”

(Kinzel) The legislation has been sent to the Senate General Affairs committee for its review. The panel’s chair, Senator Jim Greenwood is a sponsor of the bill.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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