06/19/2007 12:00AM

New York bill would divide slot money

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The New York State Senate passed a bill on Monday night that would require racetrack-casino operators to distribute a designated percentage of their revenue to purses, rather than an amount negotiated through a contract with horsemen.

Under the bill, which has a counterpart in the Assembly, horsemen would receive 25.9 percent of the amount a racetrack receives from its casino operations in the first three years of the casino being open, 26.7 percent of the revenue in the fourth and fifth years, and 34.5 in all subsequent years. Funds for breeder awards would receive an additional 4.3 percent of the revenue in the first five years and 5.2 percent of the revenue in all subsequent years.

Racetracks currently keep approximately 30 percent of the revenue from slot machines, with the rest being distributed to the state or used as a marketing allowance.

The New York bill would restore the designated percentages two years after the legislature amended the law to comply with a ruling by the State Supreme Court. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the designated percentages violated the state constitution. In response, legislators amended the bill in 2005 to require racetrack-casino operators to have a contract with horsemen in order to be licensed, but later that year, the State Court of Appeals struck down the Supreme Court ruling.

Richard Violette, the vice president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said that the group supported the designated percentages contained in the bill as a way to protect horsemen's revenues. Most of New York's casino racetracks are failing to meet projections, and the casino at Aqueduct, projected to be the largest in the state, has yet to open.

"This is a way to tell the operators what they have to do, and protects us from the racetrack coming over to us and trying to cut into our percentages, which is always a possibility," Violette said.