Slot Machine Floodgates Could Open in New York

Slot machine exclusivity at New York racetracks may be short-lived, two legislators from the Empire State said on Tuesday during an afternoon session of the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Wagering Law, an event sponsored by the Government Law Center and Institute of Legal Studies at the Albany Law School. It was held at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Assemblyman Bernard Bryan and Sen. Jon McCloskey both said fiscal pressures in New York could lead to a major push from other entities in the state to install slot machines (technically called video lottery terminals) in their businesses. Bryan said bowling alley operators, Elks Clubs, and OTB outlets are among the many entities that have lobbied for the machines and warned the legislature probably will be "fine tuning what we did this year." Aqueduct is the only track operated by the New York Racing Association permitted to install slots, and they are expected to be online early next year. Vernon Downs harness track is hoping to be the first New York track to install the machines, which could occur by Nov. 1, according to Michael Hoblock, chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

McCloskey said a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law will hold up any further legislative action on the issue. Once that case is resolved, he said, the "floodgates wil probably be open for VLTs, though I doubt we'll put them in bowling alleys."

The panel, moderated by former NYSRWB member Bennett Liebman, discussed several other isssues, including the board's recent decision to deny NYRA's request for reduced takeout. Board member Joseph Lynch said New York OTBs objected to the request and the issue was discussed with all involved parties. The board then asked for data from the OTBs and NYRA on how the reduction would impact their business, but he said "we got no answers from NYRA."

Hoblock was pressed to explain the lack of board action regarding a horse trained by Gary Sciacca allegedly being administered a "milk shake" recently by one of his assistants when Sciacca was out of town. A Nassau County criminal investigation ensued, but there have been no charges by the NYSRWB. Hoblock said the board has been "stymied" because the principals involved were "lawyered up" and wouldn't talk with NYSRWB investigators. "That case is definitely being investgated," Hoblock said. "Subpoenas were issued and interviews are now under way."