- The other industry news in the state on Wednesday was the failure of Assemblyman Gary Pretlow's bill to increase the state's racinos' take of VLT revenue. Pretlow was not a happy man after the bill was killed 8-2 in his own committee amid opposition from lobbyists for harness tracks running video lottery terminals at Yonkers, Monticello and Saratoga Springs.
"I never wanted to do this bill," said Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon. [Albany Times-Union]Indeed, earlier in the year, Pretlow, the chairman of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, expressed hesitation about the idea. Regarding the concept of increasing the marketing allowance at the expense of education money, he told the NY Times in June: “Usually, businesses pay for their own marketing....I don’t think that’s a price worth paying to save someone who made a bad business deal."
But he came around with the realization that racinos that are closed won't earn anything for schools. Now, he's using the same language about Yonkers, for whom he scored a potentially huge revenue increase - some $26 million according to the Times Union report - by eliminating the existing sliding scale and fixing its percentage at 32% for all its revenue.
Pretlow said Yonkers opposed the bill because it didn't do enough to help the track get out of a "bad" business decision to invest $280 million on a VLT facility that doesn't earn enough to pay off loans.Pretlow sounds like he's done, and Jeff Gural's immediate declaration that he will close the racinos at Vernon and Tioga Downs until a bill is passed may fall on deaf ears. "I don't know what to do," said Gural...."This is an example of just pure greed on the part of some tracks in the state." [Standardbred Canada] But it probably didn't help that, as a person with knowledge of the negotiations told me, Gural led the Assembly to believe that he was also negotiating for Monticello. Given that track's opposition to the bill, that obviously was not the case.
"If you want to vote this down, you knock out two tracks and we're done," Pretlow said. [Times Union]
The reaction from Joe Faraldo, the head of the horsemen's association, was rather muted:
“There are many people in the state legislature who are trying to work out a number of intricate problems within the harness racing industry involving other racetracks other than Tioga and Vernon....I think in view of honest efforts of the legislature to work out these problems, it doesn't help if someone cuts off a revenue strain while those efforts are continuing.” [UticaOD.com]- Pretlow, by the way, was pretty damn sharp regarding the ultimate outcome of the NYRA franchise. In looking back over the archives, I found that nearly two years ago, back in the heady days when some of us naively thought that the state would take advantage of the situation to address OTB and needed changes in the structure of the industry here, he said: "I wouldn't count on any sweeping changes in racing law. That doesn't happen here." No, it doesn't.