N.Y. Bill Giving THA More Money Goes to Spitzer

A measure in New York to increase the amount of money Thoroughbred owners pay from purses to the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has gained legislative approval and now goes to Gov. Eliot Spitzer for his consideration.

The one-year increase would raise the amount owners pay to the group, which represents horsemen at New York Racing Association tracks from about $1.2 million to about $2.4 million, officials said. Industry insiders claim the extra money is needed to help the horsemen’s group pay its legal fees as part of the NYRA bankruptcy proceedings.

New York THA officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

The legislation has already passed the state Senate and was moving for possible adoption June 21, the last scheduled day of legislature’s 2007 session. The measure would increase from 1% to 2% the amount owners must pay out of purse awards to the horsemen’s group. By law, the purse money can go toward paying the group’s administration, benevolence activities, or for equine research. The bill doesn’t affect the purse money received by owners at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack in western New York.

“The NYRA bankruptcy proceeding has necessitated that the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association hire legal counsel to protect its members creditor interests in this court proceeding,” according to a legislative memo accompanying the legislation. “Since the association needs to devote a substantial amount of money to pay for legal costs in the bankruptcy proceeding, the amount of money devoted to the association’s benevolent activities has needed to be curtailed. This bill will shift additional purse funds, in the amount of approximately $1 million, to the association so that it can continue to provide very much needed benevolent support to NYRA's backstretch workers.”

The legislation comes as efforts to resolve the NYRA franchise situation, as expected, will not happen before legislators leave town. But officials have talked of lawmakers coming back in July and possibly later in the year to deal with the franchise and other matters.