Anne M. Eberhardt

NY Workers' Comp Rates to Change in 2016

Attempts underway to negotiate new rates before current system expires.

New York regulators and the state's Thoroughbred industry are attempting to negotiate new workers' compensation rates for jockeys before the current system expires at the end of the year.

With a program required to be in place in order for racing to continue, the state Gaming Commission on Dec. 21 adopted an emergency insurance program for jockeys, apprentice jockeys, and exercise riders. The emergency plan represents a sharp increase in costs for owners and trainers over 2015 levels, but both sides in the negotiations said they expect a deal with lower rates to be in place before Dec. 31.

The Gaming Commission took its action because the Jockey Injury Compensation Fund failed to present a 2016 plan before the required Nov. 15 deadline, the second straight year the deadline was missed.

The new rates approved Dec. 21 call for trainers at New York Racing Association tracks to be levied a daily per stall rate of $5.65 to help fund the insurance program. That is up from the current level at NYRA tracks of $1.50 per stall. At Finger Lakes, the daily stall surcharge would go from 55 cents per day to $2.12 daily.

In addition, a new deductible-like fee of $1,000 per injury would be assessed on trainers whose riders get injured and submit claims.

Under the emergency rule, the 2016 plan would assess owners 2% of the purse earned by any horse entered in a race, with a $20,000 cap.

State regulators said the Jockey Compensation Injury Fund submitted a 2016 plan just hours before the Gaming Commission began its scheduled board meeting Monday. At the meeting, board members approved the emergency plan with the higher rates to serve as a placeholder in case a deal on the new JCIF package is not approved before Dec. 31. It's likely, as well, that the new plan, with its sharply higher assessments on trainers and owners, is serving to jumpstart the negotiations.

For now, at least, the sides are expressing optimism. "All partiesthe state, JCIF, the horsemen, ridersare motivated to an amenable solution. There's a full expectation that we'll have a plan that works for everyone before the end of the year,'' said Lee Park, a spokesman for the Gaming Commission, which regulates the state's racing industry.

Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the state is actively working with the industry on a new insurance program for 2016. "I'm confident when the dust settles they will review and approve the plan,'' Violette said of the package submitted to regulators Dec. 21.

On Nov. 16, JCIF wrote the commission that it was unable to submit a plan by the mid-November deadline that was "fair, equitable and in the best interests of racing.''

The new proposal submitted Dec. 21 by JCIF calls for freezing 2016 insurance rates at current levels.