Please see below correspondence forwarded on December 21, 2011 to Michael Wilton, Executive Director of the 'New York Gaming Association' (NYGA), in response to his open letter to the SOA of NY, and forwarded to the racing industry media, dated December 15, 2011 regarding the issues surrounding a proposed amendment to the New York State Constitution seeking the legalization of full casino gaming, and specifically addressing NYGA's claim that there are 'misconceptions' about its position as it relates to the harness racing, thoroughbred racing and breeding industries.
Dear Mr. Wilton:
I am now in receipt of your letter dated December 15th seeking to address some perceived "misconception" on the part of the SOA (which letter I only received via e-mail yesterday December 20th after reading it online in several racing industry media outlets that seem to have received it at the same time the SOA did), and I am happy to make the position of the SOA of NY on the issue of a constitutional amendment crystal clear for the record. As I'm sure you were aware from my testimony earlier this year to the NYS Senate on the issue [attached], our very public and widely distributed position has been - and remains - as follows:
"While a proposed constitutional amendment could certainly represent an opportunity to expand upon recent gains in New York racing, it could also have the exact opposite effect if New York does not make the right economic choice and take specific, pro-active steps to support our industries. To protect New York racing and agriculture, any resolution to allow full-scale commercial casinos must include strong, detailed language mandating that these new gaming opportunities provide similar contributions to the state's job-intensive racing and agriculture industries as currently exist in the VLT law. Without such mandated contributions, any resulting shift from existing VLT wagering to these new, competing full-scale casino wagering vehicles will undoubtedly decimate racing and, by extension, our agricultural industry."
As you certainly also know, individual members of your own Association have, on more than one occasion, publicly expressed that they would not support our above-detailed position regarding contributions to the racing and agricultural industries from proposed new table games, and so I would ask what the New York Gaming Association's detailed position is regarding this point? Obviously, the Association's formal position on such a key question is an important policy matter for the SOA and other horsemen's and breeders' groups, especially in light of your very public "invitation" for us to join your Association, and neither your December 15th letter nor any materials we have seen to-date directly address it. Therefore, if your invitation is, in fact, a sincere attempt to generate dialogue about possible areas of mutual interest and benefit - and not just public relations - then fair-minded individuals must surely agree that this issue is central to any future discussions.
Again, while we believe that a proposed constitutional amendment could potentially be positive for racing, virtually the entire harness and thoroughbred racing, breeding and agricultural sectors recognize that our resurgent industries could be gravely damaged should protections for racing and breeding not be mandated in any casino expansion.
I hope that my attached testimony - as well as the below Mission Statement of a newly-formed, industry-wide racing and agricultural group called the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance - will help to avoid any future "misconceptions":
WHAT IS AT STAKE:
New York State's racing-based Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) initiative was created by the New York State legislature with the dual purpose of funding education and supporting a horse racing industry that is a major job-generator across virtually every region of the state. The success of VLTs at NY's harness tracks - and the significant multiplier effect of purse money invested back in our racing, breeding and agriculture industries - has led directly to a harness renaissance that has seen record prices at horse sales for NY-breds, tens of millions of dollars in investments in new breeding farms and agriculture here, and an influx of individuals in the racing game into New York State. A similar renaissance in the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries is about to occur with the opening of the Aqueduct VLT facility in the fall of 2011.
In light of all of these positive, proven economic gains, any legislative proposal to allow full-scale commercial casinos must include strong protections/legal mandates for these new gaming opportunities to provide similar contributions to the state's job-intensive racing and agriculture industries. New York's courts have endorsed the two concurrent goals of New York's VLT initiative - securing continuing revenue for New York education and supporting racing/agriculture - and this critically important dual mission should not be compromised by any proposed constitutional amendment.
Please don't hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions or concerns about the interests or positions of the SOA's members or our fellow horsemen and breeders across New York State.
Testimony from Joe Faraldo regarding a constitutional amendment to allow full casino gaming in NYS
"Any constitutional amendment must include legislatively mandated protections and support for racing and agriculture and the 40,000 jobs they generate in NYS."
September 7, 2011
Thank you Chairman Bonacic and Committee members for the opportunity to testify today. Many of the 40,000 New Yorkers employed in the state's critically important racing, equine and agriculture industries are extremely concerned about their futures and their livelihoods, and so we are very grateful to be able to share our thoughts and concerns about a proposed constitutional amendment to allow full casino gaming in New York.
My name is Joe Faraldo and I am the President of the Standardbred Owners Association. I am here today not only on behalf of the SOA and thousands of members of the Empire State Harness Horsemen's Alliance, but also as a proud member of a newly-forming statewide advocacy group - the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance - that will be comprised of New York State horsemen, breeders, and agricultural industry representatives.
So while we know you have heard today from the NY Gaming Association that represents the interests of nine racino owners, you will now also start hearing - for the first time - from an Alliance that represents the tens of thousands of New York horse owners, trainers, veterinarians, farmers, feed suppliers, breeders, grooms, blacksmiths and others who could potentially see their livelihoods threatened should a constitutional amendment be adopted without specific protections and support for New York racing.
Put as simply as possible, while a proposed constitutional amendment could certainly represent an opportunity to expand upon the significant gains we have seen in our New York racing and agriculture industries as a direct result of the thoughtful, racing-based VLT initiative put in place by the Legislature, it could also have the exact opposite effect if New York does not make the right economic choice and take specific, pro-active steps to protect our racing and agricultural industries.
The agricultural and racing investments made in New York State as a result of higher purses from the VLTs are not a matter of theory or conjecture. They are the very real $9 million in capital improvements and $11 million in stallions invested at Blue Chip Farms in Orange County; the brand new, $8 million dollar training center Mark Ford recently built in Middletown, which has created dozens of new full time jobs; or the $4 million spent transforming an abandoned horse farm in Pine Bush into an active training center that has succeeded in luring dozens of trainers away from competing states right here to New York.
These unprecedented agricultural investments are having a huge job creation and economic multiplier effect across the state, and every last bit of this is the direct result of the higher purses generated by VLTs.
Therefore, to avoid cannibalizing our strong and growing racing industry - and potentially erase all of these years of job growth and economic gains - then any resolution to allow full-scale commercial casinos must include strong, detailed language mandating that these new gaming opportunities provide similar contributions to the state's job-intensive racing and agriculture industries as currently exist in the VLT law. Without such mandated contributions, any resulting shift from existing VLT wagering to these new, competing full-scale casino wagering vehicles will undoubtedly decimate racing and, by extension, our agricultural industry.
It is, quite frankly, economically illogical to consider trading off tens of thousands of existing racing, agricultural and equine-related jobs in exchange for increased profits for casino owners and a limited number of new positions for blackjack dealers, croupiers and pit bosses.
Furthermore, we must consider what additional hidden costs might be involved in any promise of new casino-related jobs. For example, if the racino operators are angling for reduced tax rates as a trade off for these additional jobs, then what is the fiscal impact of shifting play from popular lottery table games like roulette to full casino versions of these table games with potentially lower tax rates? How will that impact revenue to the state and to education? And how will the state protect our racing and agriculture industries as part of this transition?
These types of questions - and the need to effectively balance the various interests of the state, public school students, the racino operators, the racing industry, and agriculture in New York State, as the existing VLT program has done - are critical to the process and to the policy discussion we are starting today.
So with New York continuing to face unprecedented economic challenges - and with "jobs, jobs, jobs" serving as the state's current public policy mantra - we in the NY Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance look forward to working closely with you on the issue of a potential constitutional amendment. We remain committed to the belief that any such initiative must generate important funding for education in New York and simultaneously protect and promote New York racing, jobs and agriculture.
Once again, on behalf of more than 40,000 industry representatives across New York State, thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT JOE FARALDO AT 718-544-6800 OR THE SOA'S LEGISLATIVE REPRESENTATIVES, YOSWEIN NEW YORK, AT 212-233-5700.