Lawmakers in the state Assembly today will assess the horse racing industry in New York, and a coalition of business organizations, labor unions and those involved in the sport are urging officials to continue backing the industry.
The hearing comes as scrutiny is being applied to the industry following the death of Medina Spirit, the Kentucky Derby winner whose victory was called into question after testing positive for a banned substance.
The We Are New York Horse Racing coalition formed earlier this week, composed of farmers, trainers, horse breeders and racetrack workers as well labor unions and racing operations.
The coalition has pointed to the impact the sport has had on tourism in New York, especially in upstate areas like Saratoga Springs. This can be especially vital during the COVID-19 pandemic after the hit the hospitality industry took during the crisis.
“Saratoga Race Course is an economic engine for upstate New York and a source of great pride for our communities,” said Todd Shimkus, the president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “Our member businesses recognize the sport’s direct impact to the local economy, which is why we will take every opportunity to emphasize horse racing’s importance to Saratoga County and New York. I look forward to speaking directly to the NYS Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering to discuss the sport’s importance to Saratoga County and the surrounding areas.”
The meet at Saratoga this past summer drew an average daily attendance of more than 26,000 people after racing was closed to spectators in 2020. That in turn has generated millions of dollars in tax revenue and jobs along the way.
“Our union members continue to be positively impacted by the sport of horse racing every single day,” said Vincent Albanese, the director of policy and public Affairs at the New York State Laborers’ Organizing Fund. “They maintain the tracks, help with capital improvements and are provided good paying jobs for doing so. We’re proud to support this industry and must continue to double down on its benefits especially for our hundreds of construction workers.”