The legislation, approved by the Senate and Assembly late this spring, claims it would extend the protections to federal antitrust statutes as well, though it is uncertain how a state can make such a guarantee on behalf of Washington.
Another bill before Cuomo would let tracks offer more admission giveaways to lure on-track bettors, though many tracks in New York with VLT casinos already don’t charge for entry.
The antitrust immunity bill is intended to permit tracks and OTBs to “band together” to create operating deals to do such things as stagger race start times from one facility to another as a way to bolster simulcast signal revenues. The measure is being pushed most heavily by harness tracks.
The legislation states that New York’s Racing and Wagering Board must approve such operating deals between tracks and OTBs and have a chief goal of promoting New York races.
The measure also permits facilities to more easily enter into joint purchase or sale of their race broadcasts.
“Making such joint cooperative arrangements may lead to better national market penetration of the state's racing products and help to reduce overhead costs and competition among New York's racing producers so that OTBs can effectively market each racetrack's products,” a memo by the bill’s sponsors states.
“The need to preserve the state's ailing racetracks should, however, outweigh any limited anti-competitive effects of any joint marketing or horse race production agreements,” the memo adds.
The memo cites a U.S. Supreme Court case as giving states certain powers to “confer immunity for the Sherman Anti-trust Act for certain government-sanctioned activities.’’
“The purpose is to do a good thing,’’ Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly racing committee, said of the bill he sponsored along with Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat.
The free admission bill is aimed mostly at New York Racing Association tracks, Pretlow said. He said the bill comes in response to a ban pushed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer on free admissions to anyone other than horse owners. Pretlow said he believes the bill, if signed, will be moot at least at Aqueduct after its casino opens later this fall as he expects NYRA to drop admission fees there.
“Tracks don’t make money on entrance fees and people are prone to go somewhere if it’s free,’’ Pretlow said.
The bill permits free admissions to owners, as well as their spouses and children, as well as trainers and any other person “deemed appropriate” by a racetrack. It also permits free passes to a wider audience in conjunction with promotions.