The following correspondence, forwarded on Dec. 21, 2011 by SOA of NY President Joseph Faraldo to Michael Wilton, executive director of the New York Gaming Association (NYGA), is in response to Wilton’s open letter to the SOA of NY, and forwarded to the racing industry media, dated Dec. 15, 2011, regarding the issues surrounding a proposed amendment to the New York State Constitution seeking the legalization of full casino gaming, and specifically addressing NYGA’s claim that there are “misconceptions” about its position as it relates to the racing and breeding industries.
(Mr. Wilton’s original correspondence click here.)
Dear Mr. Wilton: I am now in receipt of your letter dated December 15th seeking to address some perceived “misconception” on the part of the SOA (which letter I only received via e-mail yesterday December 20th after reading it online in several racing industry media outlets that seem to have received it at the same time the SOA did), and I am happy to make the position of the SOA of NY on the issue of a constitutional amendment crystal clear for the record. As I’m sure you were aware from my testimony earlier this year to the NYS Senate on the issue, our very public and widely distributed position has been — and remains — as follows:
“While a proposed constitutional amendment could certainly represent an opportunity to expand upon recent gains in New York racing, it could also have the exact opposite effect if New York does not make the right economic choice and take specific, proactive steps to support our industries. To protect New York racing and agriculture, any resolution to allow full-scale commercial casinos must include strong, detailed language mandating that these new gaming opportunities provide similar contributions to the state’s job-intensive racing and agriculture industries as currently exist in the VLT law. Without such mandated contributions, any resulting shift from existing VLT wagering to these new, competing full-scale casino wagering vehicles will undoubtedly decimate racing and, by extension, our agricultural industry.”
As you certainly also know, individual members of your own Association have, on more than one occasion, publicly expressed that they would not support our above-detailed position regarding contributions to the racing and agricultural industries from proposed new table games, and so I would ask what the New York Gaming Association’s detailed position is regarding this point? Obviously, the Association’s formal position on such a key question is an important policy matter for the SOA and other horsemen’s and breeders’ groups, especially in light of your very public “invitation” for us to join your Association, and neither your December 15th letter nor any materials we have seen to-date directly address it. Therefore, if your invitation is, in fact, a sincere attempt to generate dialogue about possible areas of mutual interest and benefit — and not just public relations — then fair-minded individuals must surely agree that this issue is central to any future discussions.
Again, while we believe that a proposed constitutional amendment could potentially be positive for racing, virtually the entire harness and Thoroughbred racing, breeding and agricultural sectors recognize that our resurgent industries could be gravely damaged should protections for racing and breeding not be mandated in any casino expansion.
I hope that my attached testimony — as well as the below Mission Statement of a newly formed, industry-wide racing and agricultural group called the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance — will help to avoid any future “misconceptions:”
WHAT IS AT STAKE:
New York State’s racing-based Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) initiative was created by the New York State legislature with the dual purpose of funding education and supporting a horse racing industry that is a major job-generator across virtually every region of the state. The success of VLTs at NY’s harness tracks — and the significant multiplier effect of purse money invested back in our racing, breeding and agriculture industries — has led directly to a harness renaissance that has seen record prices at horse sales for NY-breds, tens of millions of dollars in investments in new breeding farms and agriculture here, and an influx of individuals in the racing game into New York State. A similar renaissance in the thoroughbred racing and breeding industries is about to occur with the opening of the Aqueduct VLT facility in the fall of 2011.
In light of all of these positive, proven economic gains, any legislative proposal to allow full-scale commercial casinos must include strong protections/legal mandates for these new gaming opportunities to provide similar contributions to the state’s job-intensive racing and agriculture industries. New York’s courts have endorsed the two concurrent goals of New York’s VLT initiative — securing continuing revenue for New York education and supporting racing/agriculture — and this critically important dual mission should not be compromised by any proposed constitutional amendment.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions or concerns about the interests or positions of the SOA’s members or our fellow horsemen and breeders across New York State.