Race tracks

New York Racetracks Looking for a New Deal

Racetracks with gambling operations in New York are pointing to the money they give for education across the state, and the amount of jobs they provide, as a way to renegotiate their deal with the state government.

The state currently hosts eight racetracks with approved Video Lottery Terminal gaming. There was a ninth, but Tioga Downs became a full-scale commercial casino this past December.

Productive Racinos Face New Competition

The New York Gaming Association told the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau last week the racinos generated $3.3 billion in economic activity in 2016, providing $905 million to fund education in New York. This represented a record amount, and several of the properties now want to make a new deal with lawmakers.

The tracks claim they now face tougher competition from two commercial casinos opened upstate in February, including the del Lago Resort and Casino and Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady. Plus, Native American casinos run by the Seneca Nation in Western New York and the Oneida Nation in Central New York.

Tax Rate Changes, Parity Sought

Considering all the money paid in taxes, and the fact the industry employs 5,300 people and supports 29,000 jobs overall, the New York Gaming Association believes the industry is entitled to a few concessions from lawmakers.

According to the association, the tracks provided $87 million in tax revenue to local governments in 2016. Vernon Downs and Batavia Downs are both lobbying to lower the tax rates to something more competitive with the new commercial casinos.

“Having created new state casinos and a hyper sensitive business environment without leveling the playing field potentially means job cuts here and additional loss for horseman through central and western New York,” read a statement from Batavia Downs.

Racinos Blocked From Investing

In the meantime, the Empire City at Yonkers Raceway is also lobbying for a change to its capital fund reserved for facility upgrades.

The racino has a cap on its capital fund of $2.5 million, but wants it lifted to help fund an expansion that will include a parking garage, bus terminal and hotel. The track essentially wants parity with Resorts World in Queens, which has no cap on its capital fund. This allowed the property to fund an ongoing $300 million expansion, including a hotel and resort.

Politicians Weigh In

Assembly Gaming Committee chairman J. Gary Pretlow has expressed an interest in helping the fledgling industry. Senate Racing Committee chairman John Bonacic is on board as well. He did say it’s too early to determine the impact of the new commercial casinos on racetracks with gambling.

However, he also believes both are valuable to the state and should be maintained.

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