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Senator Expected to Head NY Racing Board

A new top racing industry regulator is poised to be confirmed by New York lawmakers Aug. 8 when the state Senate returns for a one-day session.

Sen. John Sabini, a Queens Democrat who has served on the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee since 2003, will take over the New York State Racing and Wagering Board if, as expected, he is confirmed by his colleagues. Sabini was nominated for the post in June by Gov. David Paterson. Sabini would take the job now held by Daniel Hogan, who would remain a member of the board.

The timing of a meeting by the Senate committee to consider Sabini’s appointment-- just one hour before the start of the Aug. 8 session--is no accident. The Republicans control the Senate, but by a razor-thin margin of just 31-30; the gap was narrowed with the recent retirement of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Sabini’s approval would improve GOP control, albeit ever so slightly, to 31-29, at a time when the two parties are engaged in a fierce fight in the fall elections that will decide who runs the Senate.

Sabini, who has never been shy about offering criticism of the New York Racing Association, has talked of using his board post to try to provide a jumpstart to the industry in New York. His nomination comes as the state has taken control of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., negotiations are continuing over awarding a development deal for a video lottery terminal casino at Aqueduct, and NYRA’s 25-year franchise extension to run three tracks has still not been finalized with the state.

Sabini had been facing a nasty primary fight before Paterson tapped him for the racing and wagering board post.

In a June interview with The Blood-Horse, Sabini talked of a “holistic” approach that he wants to bring to the racing industry. He talked of using the board to not just look out for the interests of the racing industry, but also New York taxpayers.

Sabini said he wants the state to look at ways to consolidate the overlapping services that run up costs for tracks and OTB corporations in the state, and to work on new ways to better market the industry.