04/27/2005 12:00AM

Finger Lakes track report


As expected, the addition of video lottery terminals had a positive impact on business at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack.

Last year, Finger Lakes raised purses twice following the opening of its 1,010-machine slots casino in February. The meet produced gains in both handle and attendance for the first time since 1991.

Daily purses increased 56 percent in 2004 to $97,000, compared with $62,000 in 2003.

The 2005 meet began with the same overnight purse levels as those that went into effect last June, the second round of increases since the advent of slots. Chris Riegle, the track's president and general manager, explained that Finger Lakes is being cautious until it can gauge the effect of slots opening up at Batavia Downs, about 50 miles away from Finger Lakes in Farmington, N.Y., on May 18.

"With increased competition in the market, we are not expecting any additional increases for 2005," Reigle said.

He added that once the New York Racing Association's video lottery terminals come online, pumping more revenue into New York's breeding industry, he expects interest in New York-bred Thoroughbreds to increase significantly, "which should increase the horse population in New York and set off another round of purse increases fueled by additional handle."

The first year of slots at Finger Lakes generated $44.4 million in revenue for New York state. The biggest chunk of that money, $38.2 million, was earmarked for educational funding.

On average, video lottery terminals return about 92 cents of every dollar wagered in the form of prizes to players. Of the remaining 8 cents from each dollar wagered, 61 percent is directed toward funding education within New York state, the New York State Lottery receives 10 percent, Finger Lakes gets 20.24 percent, and the Thoroughbred racing purse structure at Finger Lakes receives 7.51 percent, with New York Thoroughbred breeding programs getting 1.25 percent.