Updated on 09/15/2011 12:55PM

N.Y. video lottery a 'longshot'


Despite efforts by New York Gov. George Pataki to push for expanded gambling to fund educational programs, a proposal to allow video lottery terminals at state racetracks is unlikely to pass this year, legislative sources have said.

The VLT proposal, which is being quietly supported by the New York Racing Association and openly pushed by the state's harness tracks, is one of three gambling options the New York legislature is currently considering. The others include joining the multistate Powerball lottery and allowing the Seneca Indian tribe to open casinos in New York.

The VLT proposal, which a study sponsored by the New York harness industry estimated would generate $2.7 billion in revenue from 22,000 machines, is by far the most controversial plan of the three. Critics contend that it would be little different from opening casinos and would create a raft of social and economic problems.

A bill that addresses the VLT's has been drafted by aides in the Assembly's Racing and Wagering Committee, but the bill will not be introduced unless lawmakers indicate that there is support for the proposal. That support has yet to crystallize, aides said.

"It's very premature," one aide with ties to the racing industry said on Tuesday. "This is a longshot right now, and we would only go ahead if that is what the Senate had in mind."

VLT's are similar to slot machines. Players activate a lottery-type game that is linked to other machines. The devices have rejuvenated Delaware Park in Delaware and Charles Town Races in West Virginia.

At a board meeting earlier this month, NYRA's board of directors passed a resolution supporting VLT's at its downstate tracks, Aqueduct and Belmont Park, but not at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York. The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which met Monday to discuss VLT's, has agreed to support the NYRA position.

Because of the controversy surrounding the issue, however, NYRA and the horsemen are not publicly lobbying for the proposal. Harness track supporters have taken an active role in lobbying, aides have said, in the hopes that legislators will consider the proposal to rescue what is considered a flagging industry in the state.

"If this were to become a reality, it would have to shore up the harness industry," a lobbyist said.

Should VLTs be allowed in New York's racetracks? Of the three additional gaming options being considered in New York, which would most benefit the state?

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