NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 9, 2013

Seabrook races to save dog track jobs

Park owner says bill could lead to closure

SEABROOK — The fate of 150 local jobs was debated at the Statehouse in Concord this week, as the Ways and Means Committee considered a bill that could shut the doors of Seabrook Greyhound Park forever.

New Hampshire House Bill 564 would prevent the Seabrook park from simulcasting dog races originating in any jurisdiction that doesn’t make available to the public the injury records of racing greyhounds.

According to Seabrook Greyhound Park President Karen Keeland, such a move would eliminate 85 percent of the greyhound simulcast races at the park, ultimately shutting the venue down.

On Wednesday, Keeland brought her concerns to the Board of Selectmen, outlining the impact the bill could have on the business her father founded 40 years ago.

After anti-greyhound racing advocates succeeded in prohibiting live dog racing in New Hampshire in 2010 through the passage of legislation, Keeland said the park has survived primarily by simulcasting greyhound racing from other states as well as harness and thoroughbred horse racing throughout the nation.

Although the park is also a charity poker venue, Keeland said greyhound racing simulcast is the most lucrative part of the business.

The loss of live greyhound racing at the park resulted in scores of layoffs at the park, Keeland said. Now, she has issued a letter to her remaining 150 employees, about half of whom work full-time, saying if the current bill becomes law, they will lose their jobs.

“I hated sending out the letter, but I felt our employees deserved to know what could happen to them,” Kneeland said after the selectmen’s meeting. “Some of them have worked at the park for 40 years, ever since it opened.”

Selectmen Ed Hess, Brendan Kelly and Aboul Khan traveled to Concord Thursday to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee about what the loss of that many jobs would mean to the town, the Seacoast and the state in an economy that’s struggling. Khan, one of Seabrook’s four House members, said he’ll do his best to hamper the bill’s process.

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