03/26/2004 1:00AM

Schwartz to fight takeout bill


Barry Schwartz, the chairman of the New York Racing Association, said on Friday that he would fight a bill that would raise the takeout on NYRA's races "with every ounce of strength in my body."

Schwartz, who was in Florida on Friday, called the legislation the "height of ignorance," and said that repeated attempts by lawmakers, horsemen, and other racing officials to raise the takeout at NYRA was becoming "the most frustrating part of my job."

Schwartz has pushed for three separate takeout cuts since taking his position at NYRA in 2000. Since the takeout has been lowered, NYRA has continually advertised how much additional money has been returned to bettors because of the lower rates, an amount which NYRA says is now just short of $100 million.

"I've had it," Schwartz said. "They don't understand the takeout, they don't understand the game, they don't understand gambling."

The bill, which was introduced to the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee by its chairman, Sen. William Larkin, would raise the minimum rates for NYRA's takeout 2 percentage points for one-horse bets and at 1.5 percentage points on two-horse bets. Members of Larkin's staff said that the bill is designed to raise more money for NYRA.

Earlier this week, Richard Bomze, the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said his organization would support the takeout increase if it meant getting other legislation passed that is also supported by horsemen.

Schwartz said NYRA paid out $1 million more in purses in 2003 than it had in 2002 because of increased handle gains that were a result of the lower takeout. "If the bill passes, we'll have to cut purses," Schwartz said. "We'll be getting a bigger cut of a much smaller amount. It's as simple as that."