FARMINGTON, N.Y. -- It could be described as fallout from a problem three years in the making. The Finger Lakes Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association announced it’s suspending thoroughbred and harness racing simulcast wagering at the Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack on New Year’s Day. This comes after the HBPA and the racetrack could not come to an agreement on a 2017 contract.
Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack Regional Director of Marketing Steve Martin said the contract focuses on the number of days the races will take place, how long the season will be and the financial aspects of operating.
HBPA president David Brown admits however, pulling the plug on the simulcast wagering has more to do with making a statement about the contract with state leaders, than the simulcast wagering itself.
“We finally decided, I think the board, out of frustration and out of self-preservation we have to do something to get attention,” Brown said.
Martin and Brown said the problem lies 27 miles away, where del Lago Resort and Casino is opening in Tyre next month. Martin said once it opens, the track expects to see a 30 to 50 percent decrease in revenue.
Since purses depend on a racino’s revenue, the state set up gaming regions which force newly built casinos to support a nearby racino’s purse.
However, del Lago is considered part of gaming region five and the FLGR is part of the Seneca tribe exclusivity region. This means del Lago won’t have to support the horseman’s purse account at FLGR.
“With the purse shortfall that’s going to be there, that we’re projecting will be there, we’re essentially saying, there is only a certain number of days we can run, there is only a certain amount of races we can do,” Martin said.
In turn, however, Brown says many at the track who have been there for generations and depend on making their incomes there, can’t afford to see a shortened season. He said he has had several horse trainers already applying for stalls in other states.
“If we shortened this meet down to 100 days or less, or we decrease purses, these people are all going to go out of business,” Brown said. “That’s 1,200 people and about three dozen farms, and a bunch of farms that supply us with hay and straw and a bunch of small businesses that rely on the track.”
Although Brown said suspending simulcast wagering hurts them as well, because some of that revenue supports the horseman’s purse, he said they felt they had to do something. He said they already spent years pushing lawmakers to make a change.
“We met with the Wilmots, got nowhere with them,” Brown said. “I met with so many politicians, you know.”
It’s unknown how long it will take to come to an agreement on the contract and open simulcast wagering back up, but Brown said in the coming weeks the governor, the governor’s office and the rest of the affected parties are expected to meet.