12/19/2014 1:58PM

New York racing in jeopardy over workers' compensation dispute

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A dispute over workmens’ compensation pricing could threaten to shut down New York racing beginning Jan. 1.

Horsemen are balking at a 59 percent increase in the premium they must pay the New York State Insurance Fund to cover work-related injuries suffered by jockeys and exercise riders at the New York Racing Association’s three tracks, Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. The insurance costs for 2015 are scheduled to rise to $6.7 million, up from $4.3 million in 2014, according to trainer Rick Violette, president of the New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund, which is in charge of securing workers’ compensation insurance coverage on a blanket basis for the benefit of all jockeys and exercise riders.

If insurance is not in place by Jan. 1, racing could be halted at Aqueduct. Training also could be compromised at both Aqueduct and Belmont that day as well.

“Everything could shut down,” Violette said. “We’re doing everything we physically can to avoid any interruption. That doesn’t serve anybody well.”

The Compensation Fund must present a plan at Monday’s New York Gaming Commission meeting.

Violette said the horsemen are looking aggressively at the commercial markets to purchase workers’ compensation, but time is running short. One possible solution, Violette said, would be for the horsemen “to bite the bullet” and pay an initial premium to the NYSIF, which would buy the horsemen three months as they continue to search the commercial markets. However, if the commercial markets offer no savings, then horsemen would be bound to the NYSIF policy.

Violette called the race increase “exorbitant and abusive. That big of a swing in one year without any early notice or preparation – we thought it was certainly excessive.”

Workers’ compensation is funded in three ways. First, there is a premium horsemen pay, which in 2014 was $940 but which could double in 2015. A second component is a percentage of purses, which currently is at 0.95 percent. There is a 1 percent cap on purse money that can go to workers’ compensation, so only 0.05 percent more could be taken from purses. Third, trainers pay 95 cents a day per stall allotted, a fee that could almost double in 2015.

“We continue to make New York a very expensive place to do business, and it’s not good for horsemen, it’s not good for the racetracks, it’s not good for racing, and it’s not good for the state of New York,” Violette said.

This week, many industry stakeholders met at Aqueduct to discuss the issue, including members of NYRA’s management team, the Gaming Commission, the State Insurance Fund, horsemen, and Brendan Fitzgerald, the assistant secretary for financial services under Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Violette said one way for rates to go down is to create a safer workplace. Violette said some facets of that are in place with the addition of safety lights at all NYRA tracks to announce the presence of a loose or injured horse on the track and to signal other riders not to breeze their horses. More trainers are using two-way radios to communicate with their riders, another safety enhancement.

mikey More than 1 year ago
Workers comp goes up when you have jocks getting hurt.Put those broken down horses on the farm and maybe they won't break down.Then the brave jocks won't get hurt as much.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
workmen's compensation insurances increases when there are a lot of claims...i dont know if that is a factor in this case..but if an effort was made to make racing safer maybe this trend could reverse..for example get jockeys to ride fairly and not shut each other out .get trainers to not enter horses that are falling apart into claiming races hopping they hold up until they become someone else's problem. besides these guys get 120 dollars and more in day rates plus commissions on huge purses.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Id rather them shut down in the winter.
Michael Jacob More than 1 year ago
Nyra is going to sell part of belmonts parking lot to gypsies. Kay needs the money.
Nathan More than 1 year ago
incredible purses. giant trainer day rates. super expensive vet bills and blacksmith bills. super expensive hay, straw, carrots and feed etc. the only winner is mr. kay and his bonus.
johnd More than 1 year ago
Obamacare at its best.
The Hunter More than 1 year ago
You're an idiot to blame this on a President who's got us out of 2 war...created policies that turned the economy around...and got that real terrorist...you sound like a small minded bigot spouting such nonsense...
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
I'm suggesting you take off the rose colored glasses.
paul27787898 More than 1 year ago
We are not out of the wars!
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
maybe the fact that every doctor i know has a brand new luxury car an lives in a mansion has something to do with why health care is so expensive..and take a look at aetna cigna or any other big insurance companies profit statements or the compensation of their ceo...fact is health care is a great business where the customer has no choice but to pay up any amount.or else he could die broke.
jusonemoretweet More than 1 year ago
Wonder if the appointed Chris Kay is up to something? This is yet another way (indirectly) to dismantle racing in NY.
Elizabeth Morgan More than 1 year ago
Remember KB toy's? Chris Kay ran it into the ground and was paid handsomely. That need's to be revisited. His behavior has not changed in regard to running a company. He will run NYRA into the ground if left unchecked.
Micclay Micclay More than 1 year ago
Very easy answer - What the heck. Increase the takeout and make the bettors pay it !!!!!
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Maybe we the players can beat them at their own game and gamble on out of NY tracks only. As Matthew Hood points out the purses are up so why not pony up some insurance money for the jockeys and exercise riders who put it on the line day after day. No one likes to see the prices raise but the sad fact is they always go up very seldom down.
Matthew Hood More than 1 year ago
NYRA just announced a raise in purses for next year. The purses for some of these are already out of control. You've got $12,500 claimers running for $44,000 purses. In England this type of race carries an $8,000 purse. This is why cheating can pay off with these levels and why guys are willing to take the risk. When you can have cheap claimers earning more than non-graded stakes horses in other states it creates it's own problems. Take a $1,000 off of each race NYRA runs this year and you can pay off that difference right there.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
In NY no race's purse can be more than double the claiming price.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
Right: The maximum purse for a $12,500 claimer in New York State by law (also applies to Finger Lakes) is $25,000. Allowance/Optional claimers are exempt from this, but only because the claiming tag is supposed to be secondary to the allowance condition.