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Wonderland Greyhound Park shut down after 75 years on Thursday, a move that follows the end of dog racing in Massachusetts and the apparent demise of a casino gambling bill that might have allowed the track to lure patrons with slot machines.
Wonderland said in a statement that it was suspending business operations immediately because it could no longer compete in a "drastically changed gaming market" that included casinos and so-called racinos in neighboring states.
Since a voter-approved ban on greyhound racing took effect on Jan. 1, the track had remained open for simulcasting, in which patrons can place bets on races being run in other states.
Richard Dalton, president and CEO of Wonderland, said remaining employees — about 100 workers — were notified this week that they would lose their jobs.
"This is an emotional day for all of us, and the most difficult part of it is the hardworking people who have been given notice that they no longer have a job," said Dalton, who added that many of the employees had worked at the track for decades.
Dalton's statement made no specific reference to the casino impasse at the State House. A bill approved by the Legislature last month would authorize three resort-style casinos in Massachusetts and slot machines at two of the state's four racetracks.
Gov. Deval Patrick refused to sign the measure, instead asking lawmakers to strip out the racino provision. The Legislature ended its formal session for the year July 31, and leaders have not signaled plans to return to Beacon Hill to consider the amendment.
Although the casino bill fell apart, Patrick and lawmakers rushed through a bill extending simulcasting at the tracks.
State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, of Revere, says it's a sad day in her city.
"It just breaks my heart to know that I'm going have more people that I know calling my office for help," she said, "and the odds are, there's some I can help and there's some I can't because there's nothing out there for people."
Reinstein says she blames the track's closing on Patrick because he didn't sign the casino measure.
WBUR's Martha Bebinger, who was at Wonderland Thursday, said many employees were not surprised by the decision and had been expecting the closure for some time. They said after the state banned greyhound racing two years ago, business had been very slow.
Wonderland opened for dog racing in 1935.
"Until the early 1990s when the Connecticut casinos opened, Wonderland was considered the premier greyhound track in the world," Dalton said.
This program aired on August 19, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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