01/02/2013 4:15PM

Advisory group recommends lowering takeout, improvements to Aqueduct


A racing-fan advisory group to the New York Racing and Wagering Board has recommended that the state’s racetracks lower takeouts, improve their racing facilities, and allow the return of reserved- and box-seat tickets at Saratoga Racecourse for potential resale, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report, prepared by the New York State Racing Fan Advisory Council, was prepared after the council’s four members conducted a number of forums at New York racetracks throughout 2012. The report’s authors said that the recommendations are a “mere snapshot of the ideas proposed” at those forums.

The report singled out the New York Racing Association’s Aqueduct in Ozone Park, Queens, for significant renovations, calling the track “in great need of restoration and repair to accommodate racing fans.” The report noted that the condition of Aqueduct, compared to the attached casino at the track, is “disturbing from a race fan’s perspective.”

At NYRA’s most recent board meeting, several board members also criticized the condition of Aqueduct, suggesting that the association’s capital-expenditure budget may be directed toward the physical condition of the track.

The report also suggested that all tracks consider lowering their takeouts because of the windfall the tracks are currently enjoying from casino subsidies. In addition to the casino at Aqueduct, all of the state’s harness tracks and Finger Lakes racetrack derive significant revenues from casinos.

At Saratoga, the report’s authors asked NYRA to consider allowing patrons to return tickets to seats they do not plan to use, either for a credit or as a donation. The returned tickets could be used for walk-up sales that would allow Saratoga customers to obtain better seating than normally available, the report said.

Other suggestions included lower ticket and food and beverage prices on Belmont Stakes Day; more timely announcements about equipment changes and reasons for scratches; better attention to the maintenance of automated betting machines; and the expansion of NYRA’s rewards program.

– Matt Hegarty