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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gural Pleads Ignorance on VLT Cap

The dispute at Monticello goes on, and the result, thus far, is a 50 percent reduction in purses and 40 percent fewer races.

Both sides have used tactics ranging from petty to extreme. Management recently closed the main track to training from Friday-Sunday, a stunt that lasted one day, according to horsemen spokesman Alan Schwartz, after reporting it to the state Gaming Commission. Schwartz, the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association president, says the paddock cafeteria has been closed.  Horsemen say races have been canceled for weather- and surface-related reasons that didn't cause cancellations in the past.
Wednesday's card had just 59 horses entered in eight races, with only two of those races worth more than $2,000. [Times Herald Record]
That's not gonna pay that many bills.  Management says that they've had to lay 12 people off.

Writing about the dispute in Harness Racing Update, Tioga Downs owner, and NYGA board member, Jeff Gural vehemently pushed back at the notion that NYGA had anything to do with the provision of the casino law which caps purse revenue from VLT revenue; the issue that the horsemen are blocking the simulcast signal over. Gural claims that neither he nor NYGA Executive Director Michael Wilton even knew that the law created a cap until the latter made some calls after the Alan Schwartz statements last month!  But the text of the casino law became public last June, which is when I pointed out the cap, which is right there in plain English.  So Gural pleading this kind of ignorance is rather amusing; and he's doing no service to the Executive Director of NYGA by revealing that he was totally ignorant of the law's implications for eight months. Gural goes on:
Mr. Schwartz can say anything he wants but I am prepared to put my hand on the bible, take a lie detector test or do anything anyone wants me to do to make it perfectly clear that the racetrack owners had no influence whatsoever on the legislation that the horsemen are so unhappy with.  Since this is costing everyone money I would hope that there is a way to resolve this dispute because I doubt if the legislature has an appetite to change the law when their focus is purely on upstate economic development.
Well, for one thing, I thought that the racing and breeding industry is a part of upstate economic development.  And Gural here is offering his hand on the bible and then speaking for the entire group. I haven't heard NYGA President James Featherstonhaugh volunteer to take a lie detector test. Would anyone believe that that veteran Albany lobbyist wouldn't know what his lobbyists are lobbying for?

Monticello management sure isn't talking as if they've just recently become aware of the cap:
"It's unacceptable that the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association is attempting to leverage us into paying tens of millions of dollars beyond what is clearly stipulated in the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act," [Exec VP Charles] Degliomini says.
Gural suggests that the horsemen would be better off supporting Empire Resorts' efforts to relocate the racing to the Concord, and to "build a new state of the art grandstand and a new 5/8ths track."
You would think considering the dilapidated condition that the existing grandstand is in that the horsemen would jump at the chance to have a brand new facility in which to hopefully attract new customers, new owners, etc.
Only problem with that is that Empire is now hedging on those plans pending the release of the Requests for Proposals.
"While the (state law allowing casinos) does not require us to build a new track, we are awaiting clarification pursuant to the New York State Gaming Commission Request for Application process to better understand if a new harness track may be required." [Times Herald Record
So I guess the horsemen may have to put up with those dilapidated condition if a new track is not 'required.'

 - With the Saratoga City Council having voted against the idea of a full casino, officials in Montgomery County are letting it be known that they'd be happy to host one.  Residents there voted in favor of the referendum in November, and resolutions in favor have been passed in the cities of Florida and Amsterdam.

And a Chicago gaming company has hired a lobbying group with an eye towards a possible casino site in Schenectady.