Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jeff Gural Responds to New York City OTB Closing

Jeffrey Gural is the chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, the owner of Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs.

"As the owner of Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs and a member of the Creditors Committee for OTB, I feel that I have to respond to the statement issued by the Empire State Harness Horsemen’s Alliance which claims to represent almost all of the horsemen in New York State. I am proud to say that they certainly do not represent the horsemen at Tioga Downs.

As you know, this group vigorously opposed the legislation that would have kept OTB open and now seems relatively unconcerned with the fact that it is closing. I want to make it clear to the industry that the closing of OTB is a disastrous development for our industry.

While I totally agree that OTB as it has been run is not a well oiled machine, I think that everyone involved recognizes that in order for it to survive long-term it has to go in a new direction and open the type of facilities that we have seen opened in New Jersey and appear to be quite successful.

Unfortunately, from an economic standpoint, the closing of New York City OTB will be disastrous. I expect that the breeding fund will lose approximately $1,500,000 and that the racetracks will lose an additional $11,000,000, 50% of which goes to horsemen in the form of purses. In total this represents a loss of approximately $7,000,000 in purses and breeding funds statewide.

Worse yet, sometime next year Aqueduct will open and that will take business away from Yonkers which will probably cost an additional $1,500,000 to the breeding fund in 2012 and cause purses at Yonkers to decline by about 20%.

Making matters even worse, the likelihood is that the other OTB’s will also eventually fail and the head of District 37, the largest union in the state that represents the thousand workers who lost their jobs yesterday at Christmas time, assured me that the union will do everything they can to insure that no legislation is passed in the future that will help our industry or the other OTB’s.

That does not bode well for the future of horse racing.

Another negative has been the numerous newspaper editorials written on this subject which all make reference to the fact that horse racing is a dying business and should no longer be subsidized by the taxpayers. The amazing part of all of this is that the legislation this group opposed would actually have increased purses statewide by about 10% and kept the breeding fund where it currently is.

All in all, the events earlier this week, in my opinion, are an unmitigated disaster but apparently our largest breeding farms and all but the Tioga Harness Horsemen’s Association disagree. Is it any wonder that our sport is where we are today?