Finger Lakes Owner Signs On With 'Friends'

The company that owns Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack and operates video lottery terminals at two upstate New York harness tracks has joined the board of directors of Friends of New York Racing, the advocacy organization that seeks to create a better business model for horse racing in the state.

Delaware North Cos. has been at the forefront of opening VLT parlors at New York racetracks. Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, a harness track, was the first facility to offer VLT gaming early last year, followed by Finger Lakes. Delaware North also handles VLT operations at Buffalo Gaming and Raceway, another harness track.

Finger Lakes, long known for providing racing opportunities for New York-breds at all levels of competition, will offer 161 days of live racing this year from April 15-Nov. 29. The usual stakes highlight--the $150,000 New York Derby for state-bred 3-year-olds--is scheduled for July 16 this year.

"With the company's involvement in both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing facilities in New York, Delaware North shares the primary objective of Friends of New York Racing--a business environment that will ultimately benefit the citizens of New York state, our horsemen, and our patrons," Bill Bissett, vice president of external affairs for Delaware North, said in a March 22 release.

Delaware North is said to be one of the largest privately held companies in the country with $1.6 billion in annual revenue.

Said FNYR president and chief executive officer Tim Smith: "We're happy that Delaware North has joined the growing list of like-minded supporters committed to preserving the horseracing industry and its positive economic impact in New York."

In an earlier interview, Smith said FNYR planned to enlist support from Finger Lakes, the harness industry, and off-track betting corporations. The organization, officially launched earlier this year, was perceived at the outset to be focused solely on improving economic conditions for the New York Racing Association tracks: Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga.

NYRA, however, has no representation on the FNYR board. Racing industry organizations that do are Breeders' Cup, Churchill Downs Inc., Keeneland, Magna Entertainment Corp., New York Thoroughbred Breeders, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Oak Tree Racing Association, Scientific Games Inc., The Jockey Club, Woodbine Entertainment Group, and