Thursday, February 28, 2008
Racing Industry Legislation Brings Long-Needed Help To Harness Racing And Yonkers Raceway
By Richard Blassberg
There is truly wonderful news for the City of Yonkers and its residents in the Racing Industry legislation passed two weeks ago in Albany. Senators Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Jeff Klein are to be congratulated for their respective support and passage of the bill that will bring $26 million specifically to Yonkers Raceway. It is no secret that the Horse Racing industry in New York State, both Thoroughbred and Harness, have been suffering for more than 30 years attempting to compete with other gaming and gambling venues.
Over that period, Atlantic City, the Indian Tribal Casinos of Connecticut, Meadowlands Racetrack, and, yes, New York City Offtrack Betting, have all taken a big chunk out of the Hilltop Oval’s bottom line. The State, itself, for decades, continued to strangle “the goose that laid the golden eggs,” with too large a take-out. OTB, particularly New York City OTB, with its proximity to Yonkers Raceway, over time virtually destroyed on-track attendance, and with it, all of the revenue from parking, dining, and concessions that once kept a healthy cash flow for horsemen’s purses and management’s profit. At first, the impact was gradual as OTB came into being in the mid-’70s. However, over time, crowds that were once 15,000 spectators and more, during the week, and more than 25,000 on Friday and Saturday nights, dwindled to the point where, today, they are counted in hundreds, mostly horsemen.
Importantly, last week’s vote by the New York City Offtrack Betting Corporation to shut down its operations within a few months, while painful in some quarters, couldn’t be better news for Yonkers. Without question, that decision will bring thousands of harness racing fans back to the track. And, while some may venture across the river to the Meadowlands, Yonkers will get a goodly share.The closure of all nearby OTB parlors, and the infusion of $26 million, will have a dramatically positive impact. Horsemen, and suppliers of feed, harness equipment, veterinary services, blacksmithing, and the like, will all prosper in the back stretch. Additionally, those involved in the gambling operations as well as dining, and concessions, will prosper in the clubhouse and casino area. Communities all over the state, where harness racehorses are bred, trained, and housed, and serviced by local vendors and practitioners, will also see much needed, added revenue.
Finally, the City of Yonkers will receive additional tax revenue and residents will enjoy increased employment opportunities as a result of the legislation. Racing Industry Legislation Brings Long-Needed Help To Harness Racing And Yonkers Raceway