by Paul Post
New York’s chaotic political landscape makes it extremely difficult for Thoroughbred racing stakeholders to achieve their objectives, a long-time lobbyist said on Thursday.
The situation might only get worse because every major state leadership post will be up for re-election in 2010.
For horsemen and breeders, the top priority is preserving the share of revenues originally anticipated from an Aqueduct racino. Plans call for 4,500 video lottery terminals there, but the state and Delaware North Companies, the company chosen to run the facility, have yet to reach final agreement.
Governor David Paterson, in his 2009-‘10 budget proposal, is calling for a racino at nearby Belmont Park, as well. Under that plan, however, horsemen’s and breeders’ revenues from Aqueduct would be cut in half.
Currently, horsemen and breeders are slated to get 1% and 7% of revenues, respectively, the first year and increasing to 1.5% and 7.5% in year three and beyond.
Paterson says the groups only need half that amount because a second racino at Belmont would result in twice as much money. Horsemen and breeders disagree, however, saying that competition from a Belmont racino, only eight miles from Aqueduct, might reduce overall gross income.
“These cuts, if enacted, would be devastating to Thoroughbred racing and breeding,” said Edward Bogdan III, managing partner of Albany-based Bogdan, Lasky, Kopley, LLC, a long-time lobbyist for New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. “While we would like to see more VLTs in the state, that proposal is no good for us.”
The even bigger challenge is that he and fellow racing stakeholders must deal with new state officials on an almost weekly basis.
Last March, Paterson replaced former Governor Eliot Spitzer who resigned in disgrace. In June, Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno announced his retirement. Then, in November, Democrats won control of the Senate for the first time since 1965, producing not only a new majority leader, Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) but also a different party and a whole new list of committee assignments to deal with.
Just this week, Paterson’s office underwent a major shakeup with a change in chief counsels. With each change, racing lobbyists have to start over, trying to explain their viewpoints and win support for programs that will benefit the industry.
“Politics in Albany can be confusing sometimes,” Bogdan said. “This next year, if it’s like last year, will be a crazy year.”