Monticello, N.Y.: After an impasse of over one year, the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association is pleased to announce that it has secured a long term horsemen's agreement with the management at Monticello Raceway.
Assuming that Monticello or any subsidiary of its parent company, Empire Resorts, is granted one of the potentially two casino licenses soon to be awarded in the Catskill's region, the contract ensures nine full years of harness racing at the 56 year old oval, which offers a barn area and training track at the current site. Just as important, the contract provides for monetary payments which are millions of dollars in excess of that which the horsemen will receive via the hastily drafted statutory formula.
When the casino enabling bill was debated, it was hoped that the legislature would continue the renaissance its carefully crafted VLT program brought to the harness industry. Rather than allow the horsemen a share of the huge profits anticipated to be generated by the new slot machines and table games, however, the law excluded the horsemen from receiving any casino revenue, even if the casino facility was operated by its management. Worse, the legislation left all horsemen throughout the state in stagnation by capping VLT revenues at 2013 levels.
The future harm wrecked upon New York's racing and breeding industries is apparent, as the casinos will surely draw revenue from the dollars wagered on racing without allowing the racing and breeding industries to participate in the casino's growth. The racing and breeding industries in this state are a 4.4 billion dollar economic engine, and are responsible for the employment of 32,000 individuals in the largely overlooked agricultural aspect of our state.
The horsemen at Monticello refused to accept the fate state government handed them, and fought hard to obtain the type of relief that would not simply ensure racing, but also purses sufficient to sustain racing. In addition to live racing, simulcasting and the forced cap amount grounded on 2013 VLT revenue, the horsemen were able to secure stock in Monticello's publicly traded parent company, along with a type of stock derivative called warrants.
These investment vehicles, and the Association's right to sell stock as well as exercise warrants during the term of the horsemen's agreement, ensure millions of more dollars to the purse account. Moreover, the horsemen are guaranteed a certain floor amount from stock sales, thus ensuring several millions of dollars more in purse money than current law provides.
Association President, who lead his Board during every stage of the arduous negotiations, declared the new agreement a victory for Monticello horsemen,
"I want to thank each and every member of the Association for the sacrifices they made during the several long months of pain, when it wasn't clear if we would live to see another day of racing." Schwartz said. " Because of the courage the Monticello horsemen displayed in overwhelmingly supporting the Board, we have achieved a much better future than Albany provided us. In addition to our legal and accounting team, special thanks go out to, who volunteered his time, effort and expertise during the delicate and extremely complex negotiations involving the acquisition of the stock and warrants, so as to ensure that a genuine economic benefit was actually realized.
"While we were sometimes criticized for the stances we took," Schwartz added, "the financial reward now finally achieved for our horsemen was our only goal. It would not have been necessary if legislation was more thoughtfully considered in the first instance.
"Now, however, Schwartz explained, "we are optimistic that Monticello Management and its horsemen will move forward and enjoy economic growth as partners, and that racing will continue to thrive here. As president of the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association, I am extremely proud of the role our resilient group of horsemen took to ensure the continuation of harness racing as an integral part of New York State's agriculture industry."
From the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association