Churchill Downs Retains New York Lobbyist

At a time when out-of-state ADW operators are facing mounting criticism from some lawmakers and OTB operators in New York, Churchill Downs Inc. has turned to an influential Albany lobbying firm to represent its interests at the Capitol.

The Kentucky-based racetrack and casino company will pay Ostroff, Hiffa and Associates $10,000 per month for lobbying services, according to a recent state lobbying agency disclosure statement.

The retainer with the lobbying firm, which represents an array of financial, health care, utility, restaurant, and other interests, comes as lawmakers have been discussing ways to regulate bets made by New Yorkers with out-of-state advance deposit wagering services.

CDI found itself caught in the middle of the fight this year after the New York Racing Association announced it had signed a three-year contract with Oregon-based TwinSpires.com, which is owned by CDI, to run its betting call center. The arrangement’s critics included Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who blasted NYRA for not keeping the business in state.

Also on the table in Albany is a consideration by lawmakers and the Cuomo administration to expand casino gambling in the state, which could include additional gambling offerings such as table games at VLT-only facilities at racetracks.

CDI officials declined to discuss the specific reasons for hiring an Albany lobbyist.

“There are several gaming and racing issues being discussed in Albany," said Brett Hale, senior vice president of corporate and government relations for CDI. "Churchill Downs wants to be a part of those conversations."

New York off-track betting corporations have been complaining about a loss of business to out-of-state ADW operators. Earlier this year, Senate Racing Committee chairman John Bonacic said he hopes to strike a deal in the coming legislative session to provide “parity” for the New York OTB companies with the out-of-state entities.

But NYRA president Charles Hayward recently said any effort to limit ADW bets by New Yorkers would be “poor public policy.” He noted NYRA gets more more on each bet made on its racing products through non-New York ADW companies than the in-state groups.

“Limiting New York bettors to an in-state wagering platform may negatively impact an expansion by NYRA outside of New York state,” Hayward said in written testimony for a recent meeting of Bonacic’s committee.

The CDI retainer with Ostroff is for six months, when it then goes to a month-to-month basis, according to papers filed with the state. The lobbying firm’s Rick Ostroff was a longtime member of the administration of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father.
 

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