FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2008
The thoroughbred racing industry in New York is at a crossroads as critical negotiations continue on the award of the franchise and the conditions under which the holder of the franchise will operate. The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA), on behalf of its more than 6,000 members, has sought to protect the interests of owners and trainers who are the backbone of New York racing and who collectively have more money invested in the industry than any other entity. We have had ongoing discussions with the staffs of Governor Spitzer, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Bruno regarding issues of importance to horsemen. We are particularly appreciative of Senator Joseph Bruno for recognizing the important contribution that horsemen make to the racing industry by insisting that protections for horsemen and an equitable share of VLT revenues for purses be included in the award of the franchise and any underlying reform legislation. Rick Violette, President of the NYTHA said “Senator Bruno has been a supporter of the thoroughbred industry for a long time. He understands that purses drive our industry and what is good for the horsemen is good for his constituents. A healthy horse industry means a healthy Saratoga.”
At this potentially historic moment, we want to reiterate to our State’s leadership and the racing industry the issues of importance to horsemen:
1. AN EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF VLT REVENUES FROM PURSES:
As originally prescribed by the legislature, 7.5% of VLT revenues were to be allocated to purses in years 1-3, 7.75% in years 4-5 and 10% thereafter. The recent Memorandum of Understanding between the State and NYRA reduces the share for purses to not more than 6.5%. There are rumors that the State is considering reducing that amount even further. This would be disastrous for the horsemen and purses. It is universally acknowledged that purses define a racing industry and insure its economic health and competitiveness. Other racing states with gaming having recognized the importance of funding purses by allocating the following effective percentages to purses from VLT operations: Pennsylvania – 18%; Delaware – 11.1%; West Virginia – 10%; Oklahoma – 30%; New Mexico – 20%; and Florida – 8.25%. Percentages under discussion in New York could ultimately threaten New York’s preeminence in racing, place New York thoroughbred racing at a competitive disadvantage, and force horsemen to consider relocating to other States.
2. PROTECTION FOR HORSEMEN:
NYTHA is the only horsemen’s organization in the United States not protected by the Interstate Horseracing Act. NYRA is the only racing association in the United States not obligated to deal with, and secure simulcast and other approvals from, its horsemen’s organization. This anachronistic practice from the 1970’s, before interstate simulcasting was born, has no place in racing. In New York, horsemen who race at every racetrack other than Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga, regardless of breed, have the right to protect their product in the simulcast market and otherwise. “There is no rational, reasonable or ethical reason that the New York horsemen racing at the NYRA racetracks should not have the same rights as every other horsemen’s group in the country”, Violette stated. We trust that the State’s leadership is truly committed to transparency and oversight of the new franchise holder as we move forward, what better place to start than to give the NYRA horsemen the long overdue statutory protection of their product and its dissemination.
Our sole interest as horsemen has always been, and continues to be, the future well-being of thoroughbred racing in New York. We appreciate the efforts of our State’s leaders in wrestling with very difficult issues and competing concerns. We fully support the apparent decision to award a new franchise to NYRA. Our issues are about the people who support the racing industry in New York, those individuals who collectively have the largest financial investment and, most importantly, produce the preeminent product in the racing world. We hope and trust that the leaders of our State understand our contribution and the importance of our issues to the future of thoroughbred racing in New York. We look forward to working with the State and NYRA to insure that New York thoroughbred racing remains the best in the world during the next franchise term.
Board of Directors
New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association