12/31/2015 3:36PM

New York horsemen avoid huge insurance rate increase


The New York State Gaming Commission approved a plan Wednesday that would increase workman’s compensation insurance rates for New York horsemen in 2016 less than initially feared. Moreover, if certain legislation gets passed this year, the workman’s compensation rates that horsemen would pay to cover exercise riders and jockeys in 2016 would be virtually identical to 2015 rates.

On Wednesday, the gaming commission approved a plan that would require owners and trainers to pay a base premium of $2,500 – $1,500 of which is due Jan. 1, with the remaining $1,000 due June 1. In 2015, the base premium was $2,475, but it was reduced to $1,500 through legislative changes.

The daily per-stall fee remains at $1.50 at New York Racing Association tracks and 55 cents at Finger Lakes – the same fees as charged in 2015.

The approved plan was submitted by the Jockey Injury Compensation Fund on Dec. 23, about a month past a statutory deadline.

In 2015, horsemen were able to get the base premium reduced from $2,475 to $1,500 through legislative changes that increased from 1 percent to 2 percent the share of purse money that could be directed to pay workman’s compensation premiums.

The plan begins 2016 with 2 percent of purse money being dedicated to workman’s comp. Thus, in order to keep premiums in line with 2015, the JICF will have to find other mechanisms to fund the payments. Overall, the cost of workman’s compensation is $1 million more in 2016 than it was in 2015, according to Joe Applebaum, an owner and member of the JICF.

Applebaum said horsemen will seek legislation that would allow them to tap into a purse cushion overage – a reserve purse fund held by NYRA that is above what is required to be paid out – to cover the costs. Legislatively, NYRA cannot maintain a purse account that is higher than $6 million.

A second potential funding mechanism could come from an audit of the New York State Insurance Fund, from which the workman’s compensation insurance is purchased.

“We are aggressively auditing our account with the New York State Insurance Fund in pursuit of money that we’re due from previous years,” Applebaum said.

Even if the JICF is unsuccessful in reducing the base premium to $1,500, a $1,000 increase in workman’s compensation is significantly lower than what horsemen would have had to pay had a plan the gaming commission approved Dec. 23 been adopted.

While there was no base premium under that plan, the daily per-stall fee for NYRA-based horsemen would have skyrocketed to $5.65 per day. For Finger Lakes horsemen, the daily per-stall fee was going to increase to $2.12, quadrupling horsemen’s cost.

The gaming commission’s plan also charged $1,000 per incident that resulted in an injury, according to the gaming commission’s rule. The approved plan charges a fee ranging from $200 to $600 based on stall allotment starting with a trainer’s second workman’s comp claim.