New York Racing Laws Extended; More Debate Set

A series of racing laws in New York have been extended by state lawmakers, who failed, however, to act on several other items from an industry wish list involving video lottery terminals and off-track betting corporations.

The extensions of the expiring laws, set to expire June 30 and pertaining to everything from simulcasting rules to tax breaks, were approved June 20 as the state legislature ended its scheduled session for the year. But a series of major unresolved, non-racing issues will bring the legislature back to Albany the week of June 24, and racing insiders believe there is still an opportunity to pass other industry initiatives.

The additional racing issues stalled due to the usual industry infighting and state leadership's preoccupation with other issues considered popular in an election year. Intrigue spread through the capitol building late on the night of June 20 when lobbyists and government officials said the Republican-led Senate, long the top New York Racing Association supporter in Albany, was working on a plan to permit VLTs at Belmont Park. The October law permits the devices only at one of NYRA's tracks: Aqueduct.

NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz insisted there is no interest to bring VLTs to Belmont. "There's absolutely nothing to it," Schwartz said of the Belmont VLT speculation.

Schwartz said NYRA certainly wanted Belmont included in the VLT law last year, but no longer. "Now, I'm glad I didn't get them," Schwartz said. "Ultimately, I'd certainly be interested in it. But we've got our plate full right now."

Racetracks are seeking to convince lawmakers to let them operate for more hours each day the state's VLT program when it is in operation some time next year. Last October's VLT law, now under court challenge, allows the devices to be in operation until 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. The industry insists those hours will put it at a competitive disadvantage with tracks and casinos in neighboring states.

Off-track betting corporations, meanwhile, are pressing, after years of trying, to get approval to simulcast Thoroughbred races at night. Currently, they can only simulcast Standardbred races in the evening, a law established to help protect the state's struggling harness industry.

At issue is how much the corporations will pay tracks for the nighttime privilege. And NYRA is looking to get reduced the requirement that telephone betting account clients keep a minimum amount in their accounts.