Additional VLT Revenue for NYRA Disputed by Horsemen

The head of the horsemen's group at New York Racing Association tracks said he is in no rush to share additional video lottery terminal revenue with NYRA.

"What the hell are they going to do with all that money?" Richard Bomze, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said of NYRA's insistence it needs to keep more VLT revenue from its proposed operation at Aqueduct.

NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz said recently he could not go ahead with the VLT program at Aqueduct unless horsemen are willing to give up something from VLT revenue earmarked for purses. Under the new law, NYRA gets slightly more than 20% of VLT revenue during the first five years, and 17.5% in years six through 10.

"Unless we get an understanding from the horsemen, we can't go forward," said Schwartz, who noted NYRA is worried the 20% split is needed until the debt is paid off from the money NYRA will need to borrow to construct a new VLT facility. That could be within five years, but it might not, Schwartz said, and he needs approval in advance from horsemen to keep the racetrack split at 20% until the debt is gone.

Bomze said Schwartz's claims "hit me like a sledgehammer." He disputed Schwartz's recent statement that horsemen at a recent meeting appeared willing to go along with the lower split.

"They really haven't talked to us about this," Bomze said.

Bomze said at a recent meeting, before Schwartz made his comments to The Blood-Horse, NYRA officials assured the New York THA the 20% track share in the beginning was adequate for NYRA.

The law states that 7.5% of VLT revenue will go to purses in the first five years. In years six through 10, it will be 10%.

"I just think it's bizarre that NYRA is taking this attitude," Bomze said. "They asked for 20% from us in the first five years to retire the debt. I really didn't want to give it to them because I thought the seven and change was a little low. But I did because they needed a little more to get their operation started."

Bomze said the 10% level for purses in the out years is "very, very fair. And to tell you the truth, I'd like even more than 10 percent."

Bomze said he is not happy with the law that appears to let NYRA try to negotiate a higher VLT take with the horsemen, but that the purse rates reflect a ceiling that can't be lowered. And he wondered why NYRA, which by law must give its profits to the state of New York, wouldn't want to give as much as possible to purses.

The 17.5% NYRA will get in the later years "is a tremendous amount of money," Bomze said.

Bomze, who noted horsemen "are always willing to sit down with NYRA and listen," said he has seen no evidence why the horsemen should go along with Schwartz, who he criticized for not taking his concerns directly to him.

"My phone is open," Bomze said. "They know my number. But I hope and expect the VLT construction will begin as soon as possible."