First passed as a temporary surcharge in 2007, legislation has been signed into law again authorizing the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association to receive 2% of purse proceeds at New York Racing Association tracks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation July 22 keeping the level the New York THA obtains from purses at 2%, instead of the previous 1%, until Aug. 31, 2015. The 2% level had been scheduled to expire at the end of August.
The New York THA first successfully pushed the 2% cut in 1997 when it told lawmakers it needed the additional funds to help pay the organization's legal bills following the bankruptcy filing at the time by NYRA. The extra money has also gone to help fund equine drug-testing programs.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly Racing Committee, said the main reason for the 2% level is for the horsemen's group to pay for medical and dental insurance programs for backstretch workers at the tracks.
"We do always want to provide health benefits for backstretch workers. That should come from purse money," Pretlow said in an interview.
Pretlow said he could not immediately provide the total amount the 2% brings to the New York THA coffers.
Instead of making the level permanent, the legislature each year approves a one-year extender.
"The purpose of this legislation is to allow the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association to use purse funds for the support of additional medical and mental health services for backstretch employees," states a legislative memo in support of the measure. The extra 1% applies to all purse money collected from races at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.
"NYTHA thrives to protect the economic interests of all horsemen and to gain public recognition of horse racing as a vital form of entertainment, deserving support, protection and preservation,'' the memo states.
Industry sources said the money can also be used by NYTHA for equine research, a backstretch medical clinic, as well as subsidy assistance and items like eyeglasses for backstretch workers, as well as for scholarships of dependents of the backstretch employees. Also, money can go for retraining Thoroughbreds retiring for use in other disciplines, including hunter and jumper events.
In another extender bill affecting the Thoroughbred industry signed by Cuomo on July 22, a law dating back to 2010 involving the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund was kept from expiring in October.
An additional year was added to state law to continue to require payments to be made to the group on a quarterly basis and that the percentage of revenue that can be allotted to breeder awards would be kept at 65%. The measure also increases from 5% to 6% the amount of money that can be used by the group for promoting breeding and raising of thoroughbred race horses in New York, and increases "administrative allotments" from 4% to 5%.
The legislation notes the statutory caps were due to expire when Aqueduct's casino opened. It said the law has been extended since then "to provide the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Breeding Fund the ability to allot fund revenue based on the current (economic) state of the Thoroughbred industry. "