Empire Racing: Keep VLTs in New York Hands

(edited press release)

A group of horsemen, breeders, and backstretch workers met June 14 in Saratoga Springs, NY to support a call to keep the Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) program at New York State’s race tracks in the hands of the New York Thoroughbred industry to strengthen Thoroughbred racing in the state.

“The VLT program was approved in the first place to benefit the entire New York Thoroughbred community,” said Dennis Brida, a longtime horseman and Executive Vice President of Empire Racing, the horsemen and breeder-led group bidding for the racing franchise. “Separating VLTs and auctioning it off to a gaming operator with no background or connection to New York Thoroughbred community is a repeat of past mistakes and it is wrong for the growth and future of the industry.”

At a gathering in Congress Park, just a short distance from the Saratoga Race Course, Brida said horsemen and breeders desire a VLT operator who can deliver the most effective financial results, but they also expect an operator with a long- standing relationship with the New York Thoroughbred community. Searating the VLT program from track operations is a plan for which there is no successful model, Brida contended, stating that establishing a dedicated “revenue stream” from a non-racing VLT operator is not sufficient and repeats the failed OTB model of the 1970’s.

Brida also recommended that those interested in supporting Thoroughbred racing should contact the Governor and the State Legislature to voice their support for placing VLTs in the hands of the New York Thoroughbred industry.

Empire’s core principles for the franchise process are to avoid the OTB mistake, remembering that a program designed for the Thoroughbred industry in New York State needs to remain under the on-going control of the New York Thoroughbred industry and that the VLT program must not be awarded directly to an out of state gaming operator or any other entity that does not include the involvement of the New York Thoroughbred industry in its direct business operations, and to measure and judge the franchise bidders based on experience and connections to the New York Thoroughbred industry.

“The procurement process for the awarding of the VLT operations must include points and standards measuring each bidder’s history and  substantive connections to the  broader New York Thoroughbred industry,” read an Empire release, “as well as the bidder’s plans to use VLT proceeds to stimulate the further development of New York’s Thoroughbred Horse industry.”

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