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New York Horseracing Industry, NYRA, Awarded $25 Million Loan to Keep Afloat

30 May 2010 by Devon Chappell

Another Packed House at New York's Aqueduct Horse Racing Track

Another Packed House at New York's Aqueduct Horse Racing Track

As low an approval rating as New York Governor David Patterson has, at least he has the support of the New York Racing Association, which is pretty happy right now. Well, I’d be pretty happy too if somebody gave me a $25 million loan. That’s right folks. Just when you thought the antiquated horseracing industry was about to die off like it rightfully should, the State of New York has stepped in to give the UIGEA another opportunity to engage one of its carveouts.

In case you are wondering how that might work, the UIGEA permits online horserace betting through State-licensed operators. It is one of the three niche carveouts referred to in the UIGEA as not being an “illegal form of online gambling”, although the UIGEA doesn’t go on to define what those illegal forms even are. Go chew on that. One would think that in order for the New York horseracing industry to stay afloat this time around, it will need to start asserting itself in the highly competitive online marketplace. The only thing is that the NYRA has been doing that for several years! Obviously, it’s not working. Can you say “SNAFU”?

Personally, I am ever so interested to hear what excuse the NYRA has this time around. Before the UIGEA, they were crying bloody murder against online casinos, sportsbooks and poker rooms, saying the New York horserace industry was losing business to illegal online gambling websites. Next, they are going to say it’s all because of the internet. Heck, they might even blame it on Starbucks, citing all the caffeine addicted Wifi users as potential bettors. But hold on just a second. They can bet online while drinking their latte in Starbucks, remember?

Apparently, even with protectionist legislation in its favor to thrive online, the New York horseracing industry can’t help but go downhill. Face it Governor Patterson – it’s a dying industry. Have you been to the racetracks, Governor? Yes, you probably have. You wouldn’t know it, but that’s because you are part of the dying generation that is trying to sustain a dying industry. Those two don’t go hand-in-hand. The truth of the matter is that the NYRA has not even said how they will go about keeping the State’s three largest horseracing tracks (Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct) from feigning another shutdown, let alone how they intend to pay back $25 million in tax payer dollars.

At this stage, the only semblance of hope for the New York horseracing industry is the installation of new video lottery terminals, which has apparently been dragging on since 2001(no operator has been named to run the terminals. Big surprise, eh?). In fact, it was the delay of these video terminal installations that prompted Governor Patterson’s office to draw up legislation covering the $25 loan. The State of New York was supposed to subsidize the NYRA if the terminals were not installed by April, 2009. Obviously, that hasn’t been happening. So let’s just give the NYRA a $25 million loan to buy some more time, shall we?

NYRA Chairman, Steven Drucker, certainly doesn’t mind. He had this to say in a recent press release: “The board of directors of the New York Racing Association Incorporated along with its management and dedicated employees are grateful for the State Legislature’s approval last evening of a $25 million loan, which guarantees world-class thoroughbred racing at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack…We appreciate the dedication and perseverance of Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Conference Leader John Sampson, Senate Racing Committee Chairman Eric Adams and Assembly Racing And Wagering Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow and their respective staff members, which resulted in this legislation.”

Remember those names folks. Come reelection time, it will be very interesting digging through their campaign contributions.

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