The Empire State Harness Horsemen's Alliance (ESHHA) today announced the results of a recent United States Trotting Association (USTA) poll that showed nearly unanimous support among New York USTA members for mandating defined contributions to the state's racing industry from any future expanded table games or slots.
The survey was undertaken at the request of ESHHA in response to the NYS Legislature’s recent first passage of a constitutional amendment to allow full commercial casino gaming in New York State.
New York USTA members voted 1,101 to 27 – a nearly 98% approval rate – in favor of “legislation mandating that any new, future gaming options in NY that could potentially replace or diminish VLT contributions also be legislatively mandated to contribute to racing purses, breeding funds and agriculture.”
Not only does this position enjoy the support of New York’s USTA members, but it is also the organizing principle of a recently-formed, statewide advocacy group called the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance. This new group – which is comprised of harness and thoroughbred horsemen, breeders and agricultural groups, including the NY Farm Bureau – is urging legislators to take pro-active steps to protect racing and agriculture jobs in New York.
“New York’s harness horse racing and breeding industries are experiencing an economic resurgence that is the envy of states across the country, and this survey demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that New York’s USTA members don’t want to see this economic success story threatened,” said Joe Faraldo, ESHHA member and President of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York (SOA of NY).
Bruce Tubin, President of the Western NY Harness Horsemen’s Association added, “Now that the NYS Legislature has taken the first step toward full casino gaming by passing the first of two constitutional amendment bills, step two must be to protect agricultural and equine jobs across New York State in any future enabling legislation by mandating defined contributions from table games and slots to racing.”
Mr. Faraldo continued, “We’ve seen table games experience significant growth in competing states such as Pennsylvania, and it’s not lost on our horsemen and breeders that the table game/casino operators there can keep more money for themselves by depriving their agricultural and racing industries of support. So when it comes to New York, it’s clear the consensus is that it is 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.”
Faraldo concluded, “Finally, 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 this ongoing policy discussion.”
The Empire State Harness Horsemen’s Alliance is comprised of thousands of New York Standardbred horsemen represented by the SOA of NY (Yonkers), Western NY Harness Horsemen’s Association (Buffalo & Batavia), the Saratoga Harness Horse Person’s Association, the Harness Horse Association of Central NY (Vernon Downs) and the Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association.
by Joe FARALDO, SOA of New York