Racing Bills Fail in New York

Several high-profile racing bills suffered quick deaths as the New York legislature ended its 2000 session, victims of the typical wars between various factions in the state's pari-mutuel industry.

Despite a last-minute flurry of discussions—industry lobbyists portrayed them as arguments—the legislature left the state capital June 23 for the year without taking up measures to benefit everything from the New York Racing Association to ailing Standardbred racetracks.

NYRA, which runs Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga, lost again in its bid to do something about its long-standing battles with the state Capital Investment Fund, which serves as a “bank” for NYRA track improvements.

Having abandoned past efforts to write off more than $60 million in what the CIF calls “debt,” NYRA sought to “subordinate” the debt. Advocates saw it as a way for NYRA to borrow money if it were, for instance, ever to come up with a deal to buy the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp.

The NYRA bill passed the Senate, but died on the last day in the Assembly because other racing deals linked to it fell apart. The measure would have allowed NYRA to reduce the number of days it races at Aqueduct and steer profits back to itself instead of the CIF.

In other legislative activity:

• Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.'s bid to reopen Batavia Downs, an upstate harness track, collapsed under pressure from Finger Lakes racetrack and Monticello Raceway. Legislation to transfer more than $300,000 in unused purse money from Batavia Downs to Buffalo Raceway did pass.

• Finger Lakes didn't fare well in its attempt to make it more difficult for Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment Corp. to open a new track near Niagara Falls. A team of lobbyists for Delaware North, the track's owner, attempted to set up roadblocks, but the legislation went nowhere.

• The state's OTB corporations again couldn't win approval for nighttime Thoroughbred simulcasting, and a couple of harness tracks failed to get approval for video lottery terminals.