Paddock at Belmont Park, among the New York tracks that would benefit from VLTs.

Paddock at Belmont Park, among the New York tracks that would benefit from VLTs.

Barbara Livingston

Study: New York VLT Revenue Estimate in the Billions

An industry-funded study concludes that video lottery terminals in New York will not only save racetracks, but pump at least $1 billion into the state's coffers to support education.

The study, to be used as a last-ditch lobbying tool to try to get a VLT measure passed during the current legislative session, claims that a fully operating VLT program at the state's five Standardbred and three Thoroughbred tracks would generate $2.7 billion in revenue. The devices would, according to the report by The Innovation Group of New Orleans, La., provide millions of dollars to horsemen, breeders, racing associations, state and local governments, tourism projects, and gambling addiction programs.

The report, scheduled to be issued the week of June 4 during a rally by horsemen's groups at the state capital in Albany, projects $2.7 billion in annual VLT revenue if the tracks were permitted to install 22,200 machines. Yonkers Raceway would get the most -- 9,500 machines -- and generate $1.2 billion in annual revenue by 2005. Aqueduct and Belmont Park would, under the most optimistic of scenarios, have a combined 7,800 machines and generate $985 million.

"It's a win-win situation, and the state of New York doesn't have to put up a dime to get it going," said Bruce Hamilton, executive secretary of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State and spokesman for the industry group that funded the VLT study.

Under a less-ambitious model, which would limit to 2,500 the number of machines allowed at each of the three New York metropolitan area tracks, VLT revenues statewide would total $1.8 billion. Of that, $704 million would go to the state, $252 million to purses, and $18 million to breeders.

Tracks would keep nearly 40% of the revenue, but the study said that after operating expenses are subtracted, racetracks would get 6% to 10% of the revenue.

Under that model, Aqueduct and Belmont, both operated by the New York Racing Association, would generate $122 million for purses. Before expenses, NYRA would take in $305 million.

Finger Lakes, located near Rochester, would generate $142 million from its 1,300 VLTs. It would keep 37% before expenses, and provide $20 million for purses.

If approved this year by lawmakers, VLTs, which could be on line a year after legislative action. Another model suggests 11,500 machines would generate $1.1 billion in revenue.

The study was funded by a coalition of racing interests that over the years has usually been at odds over most proposed legislation. The study does not include VLTs at two racetracks: Saratoga, where NYRA officials have vowed to never place the devices, and Batavia Downs, the now-closed harness track that Western OTB is attempting to reopen.