NY Budget Redirects 1% of VLT Purse Funds

New York lawmakers have approved a measure redirecting 1% of purse enhancements from the state's track-based video lottery terminal program to fund new initiatives to improve equine safety at racetracks.

The movement of the money away from the equine industry into the New York State Gaming Commission was given final approval late March 28 as part of a new 2013 state budget.

The provision, just a few paragraphs in a budget totaling thousands of pages, states the money must be "used exclusively to promote and ensure equine health and safety in New York.''

The Cuomo administration estimates the redirection will add about $1.5 million a year to the gaming commission it controls, though Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee chairman Gary Pretlow said it could end up being several million dollars a year.

Pretlow supported the bill containing the initiative, but said he believes reports about equine safety problems in New York have been overstated and that the state's racetracks are on a par or better than tracks in the rest of the country when it comes to equine safety issues.

The money will go to fund programs based on recommendations by last year's Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety, a panel created in the wake of a high number of equine deaths at Aqueduct Racetrack in the winter of 2012.

The commission recommended a number of ideas, some of which have already been put into place, including the hiring of an equine medical director by the state, regulatory veterinarians, improvements to drug testing, and requiring necropsies be done at veterinary diagnostic labs.

Any of the redirected VLT money, which comes from the nine tracks with gaming operations, that does not get spent by the state will be returned for purse enhancements, according to the final budget legislation. The provision takes effect immediately.

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