Whether any Thoroughbred racing is held this year at New York's Finger Lakes racetrack could be decided in a key meeting the evening of Feb. 27 by the board of directors of the track's horsemen.
Sources note that the situation is fluid and could change after a day of negotiations between state officials in Albany, horsemen, the track's owners, and a new, full-scale nearby casino that is expected to cannibalize large amounts of revenues at the Finger Lakes casino, a far smaller facility offering limited types of gambling.
The Gov. Andrew Cuomo administration more than a week ago put forth a plan in which purses--bolstered by proceeds from revenues at the Finger Lakes racino—would be assisted with financial bailout funds from Delaware North Cos., which owns the track, the newly opened del Lago Resort & Casino, and a state Thoroughbred breeding and development fund. Cuomo has insisted no state money be part of the bailout plan.
But the Finger Lakes Horsemen's Protective and Benevolent Association has said the plan also includes a hit on the number of races permitted to be conducted in 2017. From the 165 dates in 2016, the track would be banned from offering any more than 155 dates this year. Moreover, each race date would lose one race, taking the number of races at the track from nine to eight; that idea has received push-back from the horsemen's group.
One plan under discussion includes a mechanism whereby the bailout program would be evaluated as the year goes on to better determine the true financial impact of the new presence of del Lago, which is located just 29 miles from the racetrack.
Citing the ongoing nature of the negotiations, David Brown, president of the horsemen's organization, declined comment Monday.
The horsemen and Delaware North do not yet have a signed 2017 contract; there can be no racing until that deal occurs. The contract talks, though, are contingent upon how the various stakeholders resolve the purse revenue situation.The number of allowable races in 2017 is still one of the major obstacles to a final deal between the horsemen and the other groups involved in the talks.