NYRA's Lower Takeout Rate on Wagers Approved

The New York Racing Association, after agreeing to concessions with the state's off-track betting corporations, won final approval of its plan to lower takeout on betting at its three tracks in New York.

The lower rate for bettors, which NYRA officials believe will spur additional betting activity, is scheduled to kick in by the time Saratoga opens this summer. The bill, which was given final approval by the state Assembly Thursday evening in Albany, still needs the signature of Gov. George Pataki, but that is expected. It received unanimous approval from both of New York's legislative bodies.

"I'm really, really excited," said NYRA Chairman Barry Schwartz. "It's the first bit of relief we've given our fans in many, many years."

The bill lowers the take-out for win-place-show bets from 15% to 14%, on exactas, quinellas and daily doubles from 20% to 17.5%, and from 25% to 20% on pick six bets that are not carried over from the previous day. Trifectas, pick threes, and superfectas remain at 25%.

The legislation calls for the lower take-out to be run on a three-year, experimental basis and would go into effect on July 25, opening day at Saratoga. Schwartz said the legislation will give New York's tracks the lowest takeout in the country on some bets and that NYRA plans to advertise that fact to fans.

In return for the lower take-out, which was raised at NYRA's request some years back during its financial problems, the OTBs statewide will be given additional simulcasting dates. The OTBs had argued they would lose several million dollars by, for competitive reasons, having to match the new take-out rates.

The legislation will let OTBs broadcast two simulcasting signals when NYRA is racing at Saratoga. During January to April at Aqueduct, the number of simulcasting signals the OTBs can take will go from two to three. And on the half-dozen days a year when NYRA starts racing in the twilight at Belmont, the OTBs will be permitted to take an additional bridge signal for a two hour period in the early evening.

"It takes care of the bettors big time, it makes NYRA more competitive and it affords OTBs more simulcasting. ... It's a home run all around for the entire industry," said Dan Wray, the chief lobbyist for the New York City Off Track Betting Corp.

Despite its three-year expiration, Schwartz believes the new take out rate will be so successful with that he'll be back at the Capitol asking for more relief. "If it proves as successful as I believe it will I would love nothing better than to come back in a year or two and try to reduce it again," he said. "The name of the game is to lower our prices as far as possible while still being profitable."