A final agreement has been reached to permit Thoroughbred racing to continue at Finger Lakes Racetrack as part of a two-year deal that includes additional funding for purses from several stakeholders.
The agreement comes in the face of major new competition for the track and its attached casino in the form of a far larger casino complex just 30 miles away. The deal calls for bailout funds for the purse account to be steered from the new commercial casino, the track's owner, and the New York Breeding & Development Fund.
"Finger Lakes Racetrack is a key economic driver for the region that employs hundreds of New Yorkers, while also supporting the local the agriculture industry, and this agreement will ensure its continued operation without an additional expense to taxpayers. All parties have come together with a shared goal of preserving this storied track and providing security for workers both on and off the track,'' Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement March 16.
The deal comes a few weeks after the Finger Lakes Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association and Delaware North Companies, the track's owner, came to terms on a new 2017 contract that scaled back the number of race dates from 155 last year to 145 this year. Racing at the track begins in April.
State officials said the new deal will help to keep purses this year at 2016 levels. That is done by a commitment from Delaware North to provide, depending on revenues at the track's casino operation, between $600,000 and $1 million. The new nearby casino, del Lago Resort & Casino, will provide $440,000 a year over two years to the track's purses.
The breeding fund is committing to increase money destined for Finger Lakes purses through a "purse enrichment account." A source with knowledge of the deal said the amount expected to come from the fund will total $600,000. "In return, Finger Lakes commits to a dialogue relative to racing surfaces with the breeders and state, who will consider what economic development funds may be available for such purposes,'' the state said in a statement today.
The agreement is for two years, with an option for a third year. Cuomo said the pact will save 1,200 jobs connected to the track. The 145-day race date agreement calls for eight races per date from April to November. The state said the average purse will be $13,690 in 2017, up from $13,224 last year.
Dave Brown, president of the horsemen's group, could not immediately be reached for comment. In a statement released by Cuomo office, Brown said the 2017 racing season was in jeopardy without the deal. Brown joined the New York Breeders Inc. in praising Cuomo for brokering the deal.
"Statistics tell the story. In 2016, (New York)-breds were responsible for 73% of the total starts at Finger Lakes and earned 76% of all purse money distributed, winning 73% of the 1,330 races run. Finger Lakes is imperative and the governor's plan ensures its continuation,'' said Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Breeders Inc.
Officials said the agreement's two-year timetable will provide a window for all sides to better determine the impact of del Lago on Finger Lakes' financial health.