Representatives from the New York horseracing industry and residents of the city of Saratoga Springs reportedly used a committee meeting on Tuesday to urge state lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo to return control of the New York Racing Association to a private board.
According to a report from the Daily Racing Form newspaper, Cuomo used special enabling legislation to place the New York Racing Association, which operates a trio of thoroughbred horseracing tracks encompassing Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, under state control in 2012 at the same time as pursuing a policy of expanded casino gambling in the eastern state. Although this unique arrangement was due to end in 2015, the Democrat has since signed a pair of extensions at the same time as overseeing the licensing of three new upstate Class III casinos in Waterloo’s Del Lago Resort And Casino, The Rivers Casino And Resort At Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady and Sullivan County’s Montreign Resort Casino.
The newspaper reported that the New York Senate Racing, Gaming And Wagering Committee heard from five speakers during the hour-long meeting in Albany with every one testifying that the state should immediately end its control of the non-profit New York Racing Association.
One of these, Joe McMahon, who owns McMahon Thoroughbreds Of Saratoga, reportedly declared that the state’s horse-breeding industry was being prevented from growing due to “uncertainty” concerning the state’s political motivations.
“There is a lingering concern that politics is threatening what is becoming a vibrant industry in our state,” said McMahon. “They don’t feel the state government is a trustworthy partner.”
The newspaper reported that New York State Senator Kathleen Marchione, who is a Republican that represents part of Saratoga County, stated that she would call on Cuomo to immediately relinquish state control of the New York Racing Association as the current arrangement is weakening the operator’s ability to plan for the future.
“New York has to make good on its promise to return the New York Racing Association to a private corporation,” said Marchione. “The reality is that key long-term decisions on important issues and critical multi-million investments are being delayed until the New York Racing Association is re-privatized as a private non-profit. It is doing real harm.”
In addition, Cuomo’s moves were criticized by New York State Senator John Bonacic with the Sullivan County Republican proclaiming that he was looking forward to seeing Cuomo’s plan for the re-privatization of the New York Racing Association.
“I’m not here to beat the governor up but why am I bringing these things up,” said Bonacic. “It shows in my mind what is a priority for this governor. What’s important? What is he saying with his priorities?”
In written testimony submitted to the New York Senate Racing, Gaming And Wagering Committee, Chris Kay, President and Chief Executive Officer for the New York Racing Association, explained that his group has had “productive dialogue” with Cuomo’s office over the past several months and that he looks forward to “working with the legislature and all stakeholders in efforts to pass the [the governor’s] proposal”.
The New York Senate Racing, Gaming And Wagering Committee moreover reportedly heard criticism regarding a maneuver last year that saw Malaysian gaming giant Genting Group, which runs the slots-friendly Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct Racetrack, receive approval to relocate some 460 of its machine to a new 1,000-slot facility in nearby Nassau County operated by Nassau County Off-Track Betting Corporation.
The Daily Racing Form reported that horseracing industry representatives are angry that the decision allegedly resulted in Genting Group moving its highest-grossing slots from the Queens track to Nassau County. As the statutory revenue-sharing requirements are lower for the relocated machines, Richard Violette, President for the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, told those in attendance that the sport was being short-changed to the tune of as much as $12 million a year.
Violette called the move “outrageous” and was joined by Jeffrey Cannizzo, Executive Director for New York Thoroughbred Breeders, in urging lawmakers to pass legislation to address the situation.
“There is nothing equitable, there is nothing fair about this whole setup,” said Violette.