The equine industry in New York represents a $4.2 billion economy responsible for 33,000 direct and indirect full-time jobs, a group of racing-related organizations said in a study released Oct. 16.
The report comes as New York is considering a dramatic expansion of casino gambling that could place up to seven new gambling resort complexes around the state if approved by the Legislature and voters next year.
The report's release also comes at a time when the Cuomo administration has been talking about lowering the share of the proceeds the horse racing industry now gets from revenues at racetrack casinos.
"It shows the importance of the racing industry to the state of New York and how many jobs are involved. And it's all due to the fact that the amount of money we put into the racing industry as a result of the VLT parlors is very beneficial,'' Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly racing and wagering committee, said of the report's findings.
Seeking to pump up the importance of the equine industry in New York as officials weigh new gambling options, the report said the state's 23,100 racehorses are part of an overall equine commerce that generates $187 million in state and local taxes while preserving 1.3 million acres of open space.
The study found there are 2,300 breeding, training, and racing facilities in New York, in addition to 23,000 farms and stables involved in everything from show horse operations to Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing.
The report also comes after the state's largest racing entity —the New York Racing Association —is in the midst of being taken over by a state government-controlled board of directors. The shots fired at NYRA the past year by state officials have sent worries throughout the industry, despite assurances from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the state views the equine industry as a valuable asset.
"The equine industry is tremendously important to agriculture in New York State," Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, said in a written statement with the release of the report. "Horse farms create jobs, support the agricultural infrastructure, and drive economic development in many regions of the state. Equine farms, of all types, are critical to the success of the agricultural community and the state."
"When you look at the numbers, it's eye-opening,'' added Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
The study was released by several equine industry trade groups including those representing owners, trainers and breeders.
Thanks to the expansion of VLT casinos at nine racetracks, the study said the impact of the equine industry on New York's economy has jumped 75% from the $2.4 billion level in 2005.
The VLT impact is most noticeable, the study said, in the past year since the opening of the new casino at Aqueduct racetrack. It noted that 400 Thoroughbred farms closed between 2004 and 2011 and more than half of Thoroughbred breeding stallions were transported out of state. But as a result of the Aqueduct casino opening, and the higher purse and breeding award incentives it is raising, 500 new broodmares were relocated to the state in the past year.
In the past 10 years, Standardbred stallion stud fees have grown 140% and the number of Standardbred broodmares in the state has increased by 25%, according to the study. All but two of the state's racetrack-based casinos are located at harness facilities.
The study, a industry cheerleading document intended to characterize to state officials an important business that is attempting a financial turnaround, comes as racetracks are also trying to convince government leaders that any new casinos that might be approved should be located at existing VLT facilities.
"From the moment Thoroughbred breeders in New York felt confident that a revenue stream from the Aqueduct VLTs was on the way to bolster purses and incentive awards, our industry has gone from 'bust' to 'boom'," New York Thoroughbred Breeders executive director Jeffrey Cannizzo said in a written statement. "New York-breds are in demand in the marketplace, farms are reopening across the state and new stallions are coming in. This renaissance is creating hundreds of jobs and injecting needed revenue into communities across our state of New York.''