Day At The Track

Resort World holding Monticello Raceway hostage

02:25 AM 19 Aug 2020 NZST
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Courtesy Of Monticello Raceway

The following column was written by Bill Liblick for the Sullivan County Post and is reprinted with permission. 

Resorts World the operator of our gaming casino in Sullivan County is upset that New York State has not given them permission to reopen despite the fact guidelines and protocols are place to reduce the risk of COVID19.

New York State Indian run casinos are open because they are Sovereign Nations. Casinos in Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, and Connecticut have all reopened.

Elected officials including Assemblywoman Aileen Gunter are leading the charge for Resorts World Catskills to open so the region which includes Sullivan County can begin to receive important sales tax and gaming revenue associated with the facility.

Sullivan County which obviously is part of New York State is losing millions due to COVID19. Surprisingly two big potential revenue streams for New York State going untouched in Albany is online Sports Betting and the legalization of marijuana.

Without a doubt our local gaming facility should reopen. People will once again be employed, and casino goers can decide if it is safe for them to return.

With that said – Resorts World might not be the right company to operate our local gaming facility. Their refusal to open Monticello Raceway and treatment of our horsemen is deplorable and should make our leaders in Albany and the New York State Gaming Commission take notice.

The one industry that has been successful and fully operational for months is horseracing.  Although people are not physically allowed on racetracks, thoroughbred and standardbred racing is operational throughout the United States. People can watch and bet the sport on the Internet.

In fact, many racing facilities have seen their revenue increase since opening several months ago. Saratoga is having an outstanding meet. They are cash cows for their owners and operators.

In an attempt to get New York State to open casinos, the operator of Tioga and Vernon Downs has said they might end their horse racing meet if casinos do not open soon.

Resorts World owns Monticello Raceway. They closed their racino operations to keep casino goers at Resorts World Catskills. They also plan on opening a new racino in Orange County near Woodbury Commons.

Monticello Raceway which was once one of the most well attended and revenue generating harness tracks in the nation has seen little support from its current owner Resorts World and previous owner Empire Resorts. They have milked the track to the bone.

In days past there were matinee and night racing attracting thousands of people. Monticello Raceway even hosted a long list of famed entertainment featuring the likes of Barry Manilow, The Village People, and Ike and Tina Turner.  But, sadly like everything else, things have changed in Sullivan County.

The current owners of Monticello Raceway have no respect for the horsemen or an industry that has been the backbone of Sullivan County for decades.

Resorts World refuses to open the racetrack even though they can open the facility by using the purse money they are already holding to resume racing.

What Resorts World is doing is attempting to hold the horsemen hostage by seeking givebacks from their original contractual agreements to resume racing.

The horsemen have sued Resorts World, but a recent decision by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Schick was not favorable towards the horsemen. Schick said Resorts World have a right not to reopen. The horsemen are appealing.

I am told Resorts World is not willing to give an inch. Their idea is that they cannot operate until they open the casino. The horsemen have found money that Resorts World received from OTB that would give them the ability to operate.

The horsemen are also appealing to the New York State Gaming Commission.

Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Robert Doherty recently said on Sullivan County Post’s facebook page, “The Harness Industry is an integral part of Sullivan County. Most of the hay that is produced for consumption and bedding comes from Sullivan County. Most of the hay is produced by dairy farmers. Without the harness industry most dairy farmers would lose a large part of their income. They must not end the harness industry in Sullivan County. No Farms No Food!!!”

I went directly to the horsemen asking them to speak directly to Sullivan County residents. They all asked me not to release their names because they were afraid of actions Resorts World might take against them and their livelihood. Here are their comments:

“They don’t want to open the track until the casino opens crying poverty, meanwhile this racetrack stood on its own for over 50 years making money and still does. They’re just trying to break our contract and give the horsemen less of the take.”

“We’re the only racetrack in the state not racing, Why?”

“We’re not asking the casino for money to race for, we have our own money in our purse account that we’ve generated that we can race for now, this is a pressure move by the casino to starve us out, they got the casino because of racing now they want to get rid of us.”

“I have a family to feed, rent to pay, horses to feed and they care less about us the horsemen.”

“There is absolutely no reason why they won’t let us race for our own purse money except that they want us to starve.”

“Every other racetrack in the state, I think in the country is currently racing why them and not us?”

“We are mostly all Sullivan County residents and supported this county, this racetrack, helped get them the casino and now they just want to push us aside.”

“On June 1st, the governor gave the green light for the racetrack to re-open, every other racetrack in the state resumed racing except Monticello.  They made us a proposal that provides they get all the proceeds and the horsemen get nothing. Does that sound fair?  Just screw the horsemen!”

“I can’t pay for horse feed, I can’t pay the farmer for hay and straw, I can’t pay the guy that shoes my horses, I can’t pay the veterinarian, I can’t pay my mortgage, I can’t even buy gas for my truck. I guess I’ll go to the food bank for food for myself.”

“I heard the Casino may not plan to open until December. I’m sure their ultimate goal is to get rid of us altogether. Cry chapter 11, reorganize and boot us out.”

“There was NO legal reason why the judge did not grant our case. We presented a perfectly sound argument, but he did not want to hear it.”

Shame on Resorts World – Open Monticello Raceway and do the right thing for the horsemen!

 by Bill Liblick 

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