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Monday, February 24, 2014

Monti Horsemen Cry Foul / MA Horsemen Hold Their Breaths

The Monticello horsemen have written a letter (below) to Mark Gearan, the NYS Gaming Commission Chairman (pending confirmation by the State Senate), complaining of retribution on the part of track management as the horsemen continue to block the out-of-state simulcast signal.

MHHA President Alan Schwartz tells the Chairman-to-be (we-presume) that track management closed the track for training on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, as of this past weekend.  (This, in addition to evicting the horsemen from their offices at the track.)  This action, he explains, not only jeopardizes the welfare of horses whose training schedules will be compromised, but it thereby hinders their ability to run to form, causing form reversals that turn off bettors and raise questions about integrity.
  In pari-mutuel wagering authorized in New York State, it is clear that past performance is of extreme importance to the wagering patron, and so maintaining a horse’s conditioning through regular training is critical to the structure of the wagering system.  (As a matter of fact, there is a provision that penalizes horsemen when harness horses show form reversals or inconsistent race performance lines.)
 It's a pretty sly letter, taking an appropriately explanatory tone towards a prospective Gaming chairman who knows little about least as far as we know from his resume, and hitting hard on those key buzzwords of the day - safety and integrity.  Recapping in the final line, Schwartz asserts that management's actions "impact the health and safety of horses and the very integrity of racing in New York State."  He also suggests that Monticello is violating the racing law by reducing/eliminating racing facilities without prior approval by the Gaming Commission, and requests immediate relief.

 - There is legislation afloat in the racing and wagering committees of both houses of the New York legislature that would require local approval for casinos.  James Odato reports in the Times Union that the "leadership of the Senate seems unlikely to advance the measure."  Its prospects don't seem much better in the Assembly, where committee chairman Gary Pretlow expressed a lack of enthusiasm.
 "At first blush, I probably would not be in favor of it," he said. A local siting vote, he said, "just causes a lot of angst." He noted that in Massachusetts, which is holding local votes to gauge community support for a casino, roadblocks to progress have resulted.
 Yeah, but look how much more fun it is in Massachusetts!  Today (Tuesday) is the day of the big vote in Revere, with horsemen and racing fans holding their breaths (and the harness fans doing so until Friday).  The clergy-led opposition has expressed optimism.  But they've been outspent by $400,000 to $11,400, and, from what I've been reading (there have been no official polls), the measure is expected to pass, just as Revere approved the original Suffolk Downs plan in November.
 “I think Revere should be as sure a win as you’re going to get in Massachusetts,” [UMass Dartmouth casino expert Clyde] Barrow said. “The theme we’ve seen over and over in these referenda is distressed communities with low incomes and high rates of unemployment approve these referenda, and the bedroom communities and suburbs that are comparatively affluent with low rates of unemployment vote against it.” [Boston Globe]
 The casino was approved by 60% of the voters last time; and the Globe piece points out that it's important for its competition with Everett that it garner at least that much support this time.
 The Wynn plan won 86 percent of the vote in Everett last June — and state gambling regulators have been clear that the strength of local support will be one factor in play in the next round of the competition before the state gambling commission.