Updated on 01/23/2013 4:12PM

New York Thoroughbred horsemen would lose $450,000 in purse money under Gov. Cuomo's plan


A budget proposal released by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommends that 1 percent of the money distributed to horsemen from slot-machine revenues be redirected toward measures affecting equine health and safety.

The proposal would raise $1.5 million for the “racing regulation account,” which presumably refers to the budget of an agency to be formed in early February combining the functions of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and the New York Lottery. The new agency is to be called the New York Gaming Commission.

A memo accompanying the proposal in Cuomo’s budget states that the money would be used to “fund costs associated with recommendations by the Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety,” which released a report in September last year after examining the circumstances behind a spate of 21 fatalities at Aqueduct during its inner-track meet in 2011-12. The recommendations included the hiring of an equine medical director and the establishment of a necropsy program.

The money would be redirected from purse allotments at the three tracks operated by the New York Racing Association and eight harness tracks in New York. Currently, Thoroughbred horsemen at NYRA tracks receive 7 percent of the net revenues from a casino at Aqueduct operated by a Malaysian company, an amount that generated approximately $45 million for purses in 2012. Under the proposal, Thoroughbred horsemen would lose approximately $450,000 in annual purse payments.

While the proposal to redirect a small portion of the slot-machine funds was contained in Cuomo’s budget package, he also said during an address to the legislature on Tuesday that he now supports the legalization of three additional upstate casinos, a pullback from a previous plan he supported to authorize the awarding of up to seven new casino licenses.

The remarks indicate that Cuomo’s support for additional casinos has waned in the face of pushback from some officials about locating a casino in the New York City metropolitan area. Under a proposal Cuomo supported last year that would need the approval of voters through a referendum, the state would award up to seven casino licenses, a plan that could have seen the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct converted from a slot-machine parlor to a casino offering table games as well.

In his Tuesday address, Cuomo said that he favored a “first phase” to the casino plan that would award the licenses to three companies at locations north of the city and east of Native American casinos in the western part of the state. Cuomo said in the address that the casinos would boost state revenues by $150 million a year.

Last year, the state legislature passed a bill authorizing up to seven new casinos through a constitutional amendment. Under a requirement that constitutional amendments pass in two consecutive legislatures and then be approved in a statewide referendum, that bill would have to be passed again this year in order to be placed on the ballot.