Efforts to delay a ban on dog racing for two years and to allow slot machines at the state's four dog tracks - both intended to save thousands of local jobs - failed Thursday in the Senate.

Dan Keleher of North Easton wishes he could retire now at 67, but he still has bills to pay.


He had hoped to continue working as a betting clerk at the Raynham greyhound racetrack for three more years, but Massachusetts voters clipped his career in November when they voted to make dog racing illegal as of January 2010.


Keleher and hundreds of other track workers have been holding onto hope that Beacon Hill lawmakers will delay the ban for two years or revitalize Raynham Park as a slot-machine parlor.


But they got another taste of defeat on Thursday when the Senate shot down both measures during budget talks.


“I’m disappointed,” Keleher said. “You keep hoping they’re going to pull the rabbit out of the hat, but as we get closer to the end of the year … you get a little uncomfortable.”


However, track supporters did not view Thursday’s vote as the death knell.


State senators did not vote on bills for the two measures, but instead raised them as amendments to the state budget. Bills for the proposed two-year delay and the latest slots effort were filed earlier this year,  respectively, by  state Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, and state Rep. David L. Flynn, D-Bridgewater.


And Beacon Hill leadership — Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert  DeLeo and Senate President Therese  Murray — have said they will address  the issue in the fall.


Delaying the dog-racing ban would have kept two tracks  —  Raynham Park and Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere  — open until Jan. 1, 2012.


The delay amendment failed by a vote of 29-8; the slots amendment lost 31-6.


Some local lawmakers joined Pacheco in supporting the amendment to delay the racing ban, including Democrats  Sen. Thomas Kennedy of Brockton and Sen. Brian Joyce of Milton, who represents part of the Brockton area.


“It’s not like it’s the end of the world,” said Chip Pizzutti, 54, of Raynham, a racing official at the track  who was among the 35 track supporters who lobbied lawmakers Thursday morning.


“We knew that it wouldn’t pass today,” he added. “We just wanted to let people know we’re still here and we’re still fighting.”


But officials from Grey2K USA, the Somerville-based nonprofit that led the push to ban dog racing, said the vote on Thursday “sent a clear message” that lawmakers are not interested in rescinding or modifying Question 3 on last November’s ballot.


“It is a waste of time to be looking back when we should all be looking forward,” said Christine A. Dorchak, the group’s president.


Dorchak sent a letter to Pacheco after the vote asking for his support to pass an “Act to Create Economic Opportunities for Track Workers,” a House bill that proposes establishing a trust fund, built up by public and private grants and donations, to provide financial aid to displaced workers.


The bill states the money would be used for “tuition assistance, direct financial support or other professional or educational training assistance.”


None of the bills have yet had a public hearing at their assigned committees — a key step before going to a vote before lawmakers.


In addition, Raynham selectmen have sent a home-rule petition for the two-year delay, approved Monday at town meeting, to the attorney general’s office for certification. If approved, it is expected Pacheco and Flynn will sponsor another bill on the town’s behalf.


Pacheco said he hopes a gambling  discussion happens in the near future,  “so we can vote by September at the  latest,” though he insisted that might be too late.


“The fall doesn’t work for the people who are in the balance in terms of  losing their jobs,” he said. “And the  fall definitely doesn’t work if we want  to send any of the revenues back to  cities and towns in the fiscal 2010  budget.”


Meanwhile, track owner George Carney said he wasn’t surprised by the Senate rejection of the amendments, but stressed he hasn’t given up on saving the track and the estimated 300 to 600 people on his payroll.


“It doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm,” he said, after informed by The Enterprise of the amendment failures. “They’re going to have to do something to raise revenue for the commonwealth.”


On Beacon Hill on Thursday,  Christopher Roberts, a track announcer and  clerk for 11 years from Raynham, said his job prospects are incredibly bleak.  “In these economic times, it’s just next to impossible,” he said. “There’s nothing out there for anyone.”


Karen Burke, a mother of three from Raynham who had worked at the park for 24 years, said she was hoping for an extension from lawmakers because, as she put it, the state put her industry out of business, not the economy.


“Our company didn’t go under, we didn’t have any violations,” she said.


The Enterprise