Finger Lakes purses, breeding funds protected under bill

Posted: Feb. 9, 2017

A New York lawmaker has introduced a bill that would appropriate $3 million from the state’s general fund to protect purses and breed development payments at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack.

The legislation sponsored by Sen. Rich Funke of western New York was sent to the Senate Finance Committee.

Finger Lakes horsemen are preparing for a more than 20% decrease in revenue from video lottery terminals at the track given the opening of a full-scale casino about 30 miles away. Delaware North Companies, which owns Finger Lakes, will receive a tax break to compensate for lost revenue, but the purse account wasn’t protected under previous law.

Finger Lakes, which for many years raced about 160 programs a year, has not released its 2017 schedule, though a track official told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle all parties on working a resolution. About 70% of the starters at Finger Lakes are New York-breds; many horses that compete in lower-level races at Finger Lakes can’t compete at the New York Racing Association tracks.

A memorandum with the bill notes that the new del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre falls outside a geographical zone that would have guaranteed payments from the casino to Finger Lakes to support horse racing. It notes the state passed legislation that created the siting process for casinos, “and therefore the state should be solely responsible for mitigating any potential loss of revenue to Finger Lakes Racetrack and the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund.”

Purses at Finger Lakes receive 8.75% of revenue from on-site VLTs, which the breeding fund earns 1.25%. Based on a projected first-year revenue loss of 21%, the opening of del Lago would cost purses and breed development a combined $2.7 million.

Members of the Senate Gaming, Racing and Wagering Committee, during a January hearing, said the situation at Finger Lakes needs to be rectified quickly. The Finger Lakes Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association last year funded an awareness campaign to educate the public and lawmakers on the economic importance of the racetrack to western New York and the statewide racing and breeding industry.

(Gaming room photo courtesy of Finger Lakes)