Social Costs

Is there really any benefit to horse racing in Great Barrington?

Sonoma horse race scenes

The human costs of the horse racing industry include jockey injuries and deaths; poverty level work force; increased gambling and its consequent crime and alcohol and drug abuse; extremely high water use.

The owner of the GB Fairgrounds is a nonprofit organization and thus pays no property taxes. It is not clear whether leasing for horse racing will change that status as there is no actual proposal that has been presented.

Any small economic gain from the racetrack (increase in sales at hardware stores and some restaurants and motels) would likely be greatly outweighed by the lost income from customers avoiding downtown Great Barrington south to Sheffield from August through October.  After 150 years of Fair racing, horse racing was discontinued because it was not profitable. The attempted resurrection of commercial horse racing in GB for two years in the 90’s was also discontinued because it was not profitable. Commercial racing at the Great Barrington Fairgrounds in 2020 is onlybeing contemplated because it will be subsidized by casino revenues and is linked to simulcasting in Boston. 99% of thoroughbred horse racing bets in Massachusetts are via simulcasts, not on live racing. Those revenues would not be part of the GB tax rolls.

Any possible economic gain is questionable, while the high social costs are clear

“Sonoma horse race scenes” by kerolic is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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