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New York racing and agriculture stakeholders form new alliance

Albany, NY --- Stakeholders from throughout New York State’s racing and agricultural industries today announced the formation of a new advocacy group, The New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance, whose mission is to secure support for/protection of these critically important industries in any amendment to New York’s constitution to allow for full-scale commercial casinos.

This new group -- which brings together for the first time New York State horsemen, breeders, farmers and agricultural industry representatives -- is an informational alliance charged with protecting the current and future interests of a horse racing/agriculture industry that is responsible for 40,000 jobs across New York State.

What’s At Stake

New York State’s racing-based Video Lottery Terminal 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 economic multiplier effect of increased 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 now beginning with the opening of the Aqueduct VLT facility.

Our Mission

In light of all of these positive, proven economic gains, the Alliance believes that 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 and/or enabling legislation.

Members of the Alliance -- which is an informal, informational alliance of existing groups and organizations with similar interests, goals and messages, and which requests no dues and does not intend to expend independent funds -- said:

“While we study new ways to stimulate the economy in our state, it is vitally important that we weigh each decision to make sure that we continue to preserve and protect industries that already support tens of thousands of jobs,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau. “The equine industry that includes farmers and breeders is a perfect example. Any move toward full scale casino gambling must include specific provisions that will continue the State’s long-standing policy of using such revenues to support New York Racing and Agriculture. This is a case where it is very important to look closely before we leap.”

Jeffrey Cannizzo, Executive Director of the NY Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc., stated, “The first topic to come up in most discussions of the gaming and racing industry is jobs. The fact is, the vast majority of the work force in gaming and racing comes directly or indirectly from the equine industry. The associations joining forces in this alliance represent a bloc of tax-paying workers 40,000 strong, who are employed from the breeding shed to the shed row and everywhere in between. We want to make sure that legislators hear the message that New York needs to protect the futures of such a large group with so much to contribute to the economic health of our state.”

Joe Faraldo, President of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York -- and speaking on behalf of the Empire State Harness Horsemen’s Alliance -- concluded, “While we know legislators are hearing from casino and racino owners about their interests, they will now also hear for the first time from an Alliance that represents the tens of thousands of New York horse owners, trainers, veterinarians, farmers, feed suppliers, breeders, grooms, blacksmiths and others who could potentially see their livelihoods threatened should a constitutional amendment be adopted without specific protections and support for New York racing and agriculture.”

Betty Holt, Executive Director of Harness Horse Breeders of NYS, states, “As a breeding organization representing the statewide interests of the Standardbred breeding industry, it is our responsibility to protect and enhance the revenue stream for agriculture and the economy in general within NYS. Harness Horse Breeders of New York State seeks to advance and improve the breeding and quality of New York-eligible trotters and pacers, while increasing public awareness and enthusiasm for the sport of harness racing.”

New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Rick Violette, Jr. said, “The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association represents 5,000 members in an industry that supports some 40,000 jobs. The revenue provided by Genting's gaming venture at Aqueduct Racetrack has created even more jobs, and contributed to the improving health of our industry. We will follow with keen interest developments regarding expanded gaming, a convention center at Aqueduct, or any initiative that could affect our continued growth. While we would support any proposal that would prove positive for our industry and increase our already significant impact on the economy statewide, we would certainly be watchful for anything that might adversely affect the thousands of jobs, and hundreds of thousands of acres of green space, dependent upon us.”

Members of the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry include: Empire State Harness Horsemen’s Alliance, Harness Horse Association of Central NY, Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association, New York Farm Bureau, New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc., New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association, Standardbred Owners Association of NY, and Western NY Harness Horsemen’s Association.