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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

NYGA Gives Us Unprofessional Misinformation

The New York Gaming Association (NYGA) issued a response to comments in the recent statements by Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association president Alan Schwartz that were "highly critical" of the organization.

There was no basis in reality for these comments. They were misinformed and unprofessional.
Oh.  Ok then, let's see what Erin Dennin, the Director of Communications for NYGA, has for us in the way of information and professionalism.
Throughout NYGA's existence, our members have sought to work collaboratively with the horsemen and to the mutual benefit of our respective industries. There is a long record of results in this regard:

From 2004 to 2013, NYGA members have generated $1.1 billion in support of the racing and breeding industry.  This includes $235 million in 2013 alone, a full 12 percent of gross gaming revenues. These funds support more than 4,000 full-time equivalent racing and breeding jobs and help to sustain New York’s 2,300 breeding, training and racing facilities, in addition to 23,000 family owned farms.
Wow, that's very nice of them!  Except that what Ms. Dennin doesn't bother to tell us is that these payments are wholly mandated by the law. They have absolutely nothing to do with seeking to "work collaboratively" with anybody.  Does anyone think for a second that the NYGA members would be making these payments if they didn't have to?  We've seen just what Genting has done for Aqueduct above and beyond their legal obligations, despite their lofty promises at the beginning.  (Have you peeked into the supposed site of the Aqueduct simulcast bar lately?  It'll be ready, when, April of what year?)

The statement continues:
Mr. Schwartz has tried to paint a picture that our members are trying to kill racing.  He even went so far as to claim that NYGA members “engineered a law that will for all intents and purposes, freeze our industry out of existence…”. To be clear, NYGA members don’t “engineer” laws.  Lawmakers do.
Well, yes, lawmakers may engineer laws.  But organizations such as NYGA do their damn best to influence that engineering.  There's no doubt in my mind that NYGA was instrumental in the drafting of the law, including and specifically the VLT cap; and it has been my contention all along that their support of the referendum was bought in backroom deals.  If you don't believe that's the case, maybe you will when Saratoga and Tioga and Empire Resorts (owners of Monticello) get their casinos and the Catskills/Hudson Valley casinos are placed well beyond 48 miles north of Yonkers Raceway.

And, if NYGA didn't really believe they could help to "engineer" the law, why then would they contribute $2 million to Cuomo's business lobby, and millions more in campaign contributions and lobbying expenses?
The legislation provides for continued support of the standardbred industry, both by maintaining payments at 2013 dollar amounts and by guaranteeing any necessary future support from additional commercial casinos. These provisions will help to ensure the continuance of current payments to the standardbred industry, and more importantly will offer protection against any future losses in the face of cannibalization of Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) revenues.
Here, NYGA seems to be rubbing it in. It's exactly "the continuance of current payments" that is at the crux of the dispute in Monticello - just a proxy war for the larger fight with NYGA and the state - and the protection referred to is actually protection against the NYGA members replacing VLT's with table games not subject to payments to purses.

So, please. This is the kind of stuff that really pisses me off, because it's written with the presumption that we're all stupid. And actually, that is mostly the case, in a way. Not in the sense that we're intellectually deficient. But the fact is that most people are just not attuned to the nuances of these issues, if they know anything about this at all. They're paying attention to more important things (or maybe to nothing important at all). So NYGA can put out drivel like this and not see it questioned at all, particularly not in the mainstream side of the press.

Joe Faraldo discussed the Monticello situation on Steve Byk's show on Tuesday; a good overview, archived here.  A couple of interesting points: He told of how NYGA took the results of a study on the economic benefits of the industry that the harness horsemen did in conjunction with the thoroughbred horsemen, and used the rosy numbers in their PR ads with an eye towards winning casino licenses.  That's similar to how they cynically used the figures in this statement; again, as if it demonstrated that they are good corporate citizens and magnanimous supporters of the agriculture and racing industries, rather than making statutory payments that are part of their cost to do their lucrative business. A relatively small cost, I'd say.

Faraldo also said that any agreement that might be reached with Monticello management could then be taken to Albany as a template for an arrangement that could amend the law and replace the cap, allowing the industry to grow along with any lucky NYGA members that get casinos.

 - Suffolk Downs lives fight the next fight, anyway.  Voters in Revere have approved the Mohegan Sun casino on the track site.  We're told that this would keep racing going there for at the next 15 years, at least.  However, this thing ain't over yet.  The vote merely allows the track to compete for the lone Boston area license with Steve Wynn's proposal for Everett.  Personally though, I think that Suffolk/Mohegan Sun will be awarded the license by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.  I'll get into my reasoning, and have more on the vote and its aftermath in the days to come.


Figless said...

Thanks for being one of the few to cover these issues, shedding light on a mostly corrupt process.

Don't misconstrue the lack of comments to a lack of interest. Your reports are so on point there is simply nothing to add.

jk said...

The Big A eyesore is getting a lot of ink the he Daily News.

As usual with the latest horseman money grab, no mention of lowering takeout or improving facilities.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder demands NYRA put more money into Aqueduct

Resorts World has generated more than $112 million for operating and capital funds and millions more for purses and breeding programs, but as the Daily News reported on Sunday, conditions at the once-venerable track have deteriorated despite all those riches.

Figless said...

No mention of Genting failing to live up to its commitments either.

I wish both NYRA and Genting would improve the place, but I think we all, including the assemblyman, realize Big A will be closed for racing and redeveloped within the next five years so they figure the money is better spent at the other facilities.

Not saying I agree, they could at a minimum apply a coat of paint, but the writing is on the wall and the lack of any capital improvements is just more evidence.

jk said...

Looks like a coat of paint is on the way!

Wing added that NYRA has spent $5 million at Aqueduct, including a state-of-the-art simulcasting center called “Longshots” that will open in April, new video boards and HD cameras and monitors, upgraded flooring and lighting, and a fresh coat of paint, as well as new murals that were painted in November.

“We plan to spend millions more on additional improvements at Aqueduct this year,” he added. “Anyone who joins the thousands of people who come to Aqueduct every single day can easily get a firsthand look at the many recent improvements.”

Figless said...

I would go out there just to see the fresh coat of paint :)

Figless said...

I thought Genting was paying for the simulcast room...Alan?

Figless said...

For the record NYRA has finally addressed 2014 ticketing with a little blurb on the Saratoga website, they indicate information will go out in April to their usual mailing list, delayed while they ponder ticketing strategies.

An email to their mailing list customers, or even an actual snail mailing, would have been customer friendly instead of leaving everyone in the dark especially since patrons make their reservation so far in advance for this meet, would be nice to know if actually had our seats.