By John Sabini
New York’s storied history of horse racing is unparalleled anywhere in the world, and with the opening of Genting’s Resorts World New York at Aqueduct, we’re already seeing an enhancement of our state’s leading position.
Revenue generated at Resorts World New York is expected to drive hundreds of millions of dollars into our education coffers. Additionally, a small but vital portion of the money wagered at the Video Lottery Terminals is designated for New York’s equine industry.
A snapshot of the potential: In Fiscal Year 2010-2011, revenue generated from New York’s video gaming – which did not include Resorts World New York – totaled $547 million for education and $111 million for racing purses and breeders fund contributions. The largest contributing facility was Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, which was responsible for $318 million of the education revenue. Some have estimated Resorts World New York’s education contribution could top $400 million next year.
From increased purse money to guarantee the best horses race in New York, to money to improve living conditions for the often-forgotten backstretch personnel and their families, to incentives for local breeders; there are benefits to all 62 Empire State counties.
Just 11 months ago, things looked bleak for New York’s racing industry. When New York City Off Track Betting (NYCOTB) closed, it meant an immediate 45 percent drop in annual handle for The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA), our franchise partner at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. Additionally, the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund (NYSTBDF) lost a third of its funding stream. This sent shockwaves throughout the industry.
Through a few regulatory changes, we were able to ease the blow for everyone, but the real tonic will be the cash flow from Resorts World New York. NYRA has already upped its purse schedule for the Aqueduct winter meet and the NYSTBDF has increased breeders and stallion awards based on projections for the new Aqueduct facility. Those projections, at this point, frankly look conservative.
Horse racing is a business and the stakeholders are taking notice. Queens businessman Mike Repole took three horses to this year’s Breeders’ Cup, and he keeps his ponies here in New York. Vinery Stables, one of the world’s top breeding operations, has opened an outpost in upstate New York and the top stallions of Frank Stronach have been sent to stand in the state. Another positive development: there was a double-digit increase in the sale of New York-bred yearlings at this year’s Fasig-Tipton sale at Saratoga. One might say the industry is voting with its hooves, and moving toward the Empire State.
The benefits extend beyond racing and breeding. Viable farms means greenspace preservation. Higher purses mean strong tourism for Saratoga and the Capital Region. The infusion of revenue from Resorts World New York will magnify our reputation as a racing capital, keep jobs in economically-challenged upstate and subsidize education for decades to come.
Right now, New York’s equine industry, from farmhands to mutual clerks, is responsible for 40,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in economic activity. With Resorts World New York now finally in the game, the coming years should be even better.
While crowds at Aqueduct haven’t been like this for decades, the splash in South Ozone Park has sent positive ripples throughout New York state.
John D. Sabini Chairs the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and the state’s Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund. A Queens resident, he represented Jackson Heights and surrounding areas for 16 years as a legislator.