Published: January 28, 2018

NYRA, Industry Leaders Back Sports Gambling at Tracks

New York Racing Association tracks want to participate in sports wagering should the U.S. Supreme Court relax a ban on the gambling form, according to the racing corporation's president.

In written testimony prepared for a state Senate committee hearing Jan. 24 in Albany, NYRA president and CEO Chris Kay argues that NYRA is already heavily regulated by the state and is well-positioned to offer sports wagering if the gambling is legalized in New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court by June is expected to rule in a case brought by New Jersey that seeks to expand sports wagering beyond Nevada and three other states with lesser forms of sports gambling.

In legalizing new commercial casinos in New York in 2013, New York State approved the introduction of sports wagering by those new gambling casinos—about to total four with the opening of a new facility in the Catskills—if sports wagering is permitted under federal law.

"To preclude racetracks like ours from being able to offer sports wagering would disrupt long-standing relationships developed over many years and decrease consumer choice,'' Kay said in his written testimony submitted to a state Senate racing committee holding a hearing on the matter Wednesday.

"We do not see why this service should be limited simply to casinos, which were only recently created and regulated. Some of these casinos have only been open for business for a year or two. By contrast, this year we will celebrate our 150th running of the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 9,'' Kay said.

The NYRA leader noted that the 2012 New Jersey law subject to the Supreme Court review permits sports wagering at both tracks and casinos in that state. He noted that New York has, like New Jersey, regulated racetracks for decades.

"The same reasons why it is in the public's best interests that horse racing facilities be permitted to operate a sports book wagering operation in New Jersey apply equally here in New York, where our state has demonstrated its skill in comprehensive regulatory oversight of our racetracks and our wagering activities,'' Kay said in the testimony.

If the Supreme Court rules in New Jersey's favor and if New York moves to legalize sports wagering, Kay said letting NYRA offer sports gambling "would be a big benefit to all New Yorkers.'' He said NYRA tracks are geographically sited to offer the expanded gambling ventures and boost competition for the gambling dollars. He added that New Yorkers "should have the right to choose between racetracks and casinos" if sports wagering comes to the state.

"NYRA has a successful history of serving a large number of New Yorkers that wager on sports. Please do not disrupt or destroy those important relationships,'' Kay said.

In other testimony from industry leaders at Wednesday's hearing: 

Kay: "The New York Racing Association possesses more than 60 years of experience working under comprehensive state regulatory oversight to provide our loyal customers with quality wagering services. It is because of that quality service and depth of experience that horse racing organizations like NYRA should be able to offer sports wagering within a continued framework of effective state regulation. To limit this service to casinos, who collectively possess far less history and experience in New York, would disrupt long-standing relationships and deprive our residents of consumer choice. That is why we ask the state, when considering the future of sports gambling, to permit NYRA racetracks to offer this service to increase competition and consumer choice to provide the best possible wagering services for our residents."

New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association president Joseph Appelbaum: "The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association strongly supports extending sports wagering to the existing bet-taking system with its well-known history, integrity, and participants. New York has a unique opportunity to establish a modern wagering architecture designed to serve the residents of New York, support jobs, and deliver a consistent revenue stream to state government. When considering the future of sports wagering, we would encourage the state to utilize the existing network of racetracks and OTBs because it is the best way to ensure a widely available, well-regulated system that best serves New York and its residents."

New York Thoroughbred Breeders executive director Jeffrey Cannizzo:"The New York Thoroughbred Breeders is proud of the racing product New York currently offers, and is open to encouraging opportunities for new gaming dollars in the state. We look forward to working with NYRA, the horsemen, and owners, as well as our friends in the casino industry, and the state, to ensure that the most successful form of sports betting is made available to New York residents. We believe that racetracks and OTBs, along with digital platforms like NYRA Bets, have a rightful place in the future of sports betting in the state. That is why we believe that now is the time to begin the process of amending state law and, if necessary, the state constitution, to be ahead of the rest of the country in the event that (the current law) is wholly struck down by the Court."

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