by David E. Brown, President, Finger Lakes HBPA
Monday, June 14th was a very dark day for Finger Lakes horsemen and women who depend on purse money to support their families and local farms. On that day, approximately $2,000,000 was cut from the purses at Finger Lakes and four stakes races were canceled. The ultimate result will be a loss of upstate jobs and revenue to surrounding businesses.
So why was the first purse decrease in recent memory necessary? It surely was not the fault of the Finger Lakes horsemen and women who work 12-hour days, seven days a week at a very difficult job for very little financial gain. The fault lies squarely on New York Off-Track Betting (NYOTB), which over the past years has become the dumping ground for political patronage. A combination of top heavy management, overblown payrolls and benefits, plush offices, fleets of cars, and much more has lead inevitably to bankruptcy of one of, if not the, biggest pari-mutuel betting operations in the country.
Has anyone ever heard of a bookie losing money? Of course, to listen to the NYOTB, everyone else is at fault. Quite some claim for the poster child of financial mismanagement.
Once again, the hard working upstate farms, breeders, trainers, and grooms must suffer the consequences of New York City malfeasance.
Sound familiar? Our upstate representatives, including Mike Nozzolio and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, chaired by John Sabini, have done their best to help. However, Albany has played political football with the breeding and racing industry and, in the end, may leave it mortally wounded.
The NYOTB has lost sight of the reasons for its very existence. OTBs were created to provide tax revenue to local municipalities and support for the racing and breeding industry that once thrived in New York. Now a combination of corporate mismanagement and a lack of political will may leave this once great industry and the many jobs it supports in shambles.
Shame on NYCOTB and its management and shame on Albany for its lack of leadership.