Horse racing at the state’s 11 tracks and motor sports at Watkins Glen International speedway will be allowed by state officials, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
No fans will be in attendance for the events.
But the move to allow sporting events — at venues controlled and regulated by the state — comes as other sports, including Major League Baseball, weigh a summertime return by July.
“If you can do that without a crowd, great,” Cuomo said, adding the move would generate economic activity.
The opening of the baseball season has been delayed, and the National Basketball Association suspended games in March.
The move comes as five regions of the state, 35 counties in all, reached benchmarks to reopen on Friday for construction, manufacturing and curbside pickup for retail outlets.
Hospitalizations and new COVID-related hospitalizations continued to decline, but 157 people have died in the last 24 hours from coronavirus, a slight increase from a day earlier.
The virus has frozen the state’s economy and created a budget crisis at all levels of governments as non-essential businesses have shuttered and workers have lost their jobs or received furlough orders.
Plans will be in place to protect workers at racetracks from the spread of the virus, including social distancing guidelines and the distribution of personal protective equipment. The tracks will be allowed to open by June 1.
Guidance on how they can open will be issued next week, Cuomo said. Horse racing bets still generate revenue for the state, even without spectators purchasing tickets or concessions.
As for baseball, Cuomo said it’s up to Major League Baseball to develop that plan.
"If you have an economic activity that can take place and generates economic interest and entertainment interest,” Cuomo said. ”When you look at the risk-reward, there's a lot of reward with minimal risk."