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Thoroughbred industry leaders seek commitment on VLT revenue

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Albany/HV: Thoroughbred industry leaders seek commitment on VLT revenue
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According to a 2012 study, New York's equine industry has a $4.2 billion economic impact. While many believe video lottery terminal revenue has helped the industry, not all are convinced it will be around for the long haul. As YNN's Matt Hunter explains, industry leaders are calling on state officials to give them a more solid commitment.

ALBANY, N.Y. – "It's done exactly what it's intended to do and that's create jobs," New York State Thoroughbred Breeders Association Executive Director Jeff Cannizzo told state lawmakers Tuesday.

At Tuesday's New York State Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee hearing on the economic impact of the state's equine industry, thoroughbred industry leaders praised the impact that millions of dollars worth of video lottery terminal (VLT) revenue has had on their business over the past year.

"New York-bred horses have become worth more money and they've become worth more money because there's a demand to own them and race them here in the State of New York," Cannizzo said.

"There's no question about it, the revenue generated, it's basically a jobs program," said Rick Violette, a trainer and president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen Association.

While they're grateful for the funds, many in the industry have criticized state leaders for not guaranteeing the state-controlled revenue stream for years to come, especially after New York voters approved a referendum to legalize full-scale casino gambling in the state.

"Every time we get kind of neck deep, there seems to be this threat of somehow clawing back the revenue," Violette said.

"There's no question in my mind that new formula, that certainty is going to bring more investment, more good horses here, expand tourism, that means more jobs," said Racing and Wagering Committee member James Tedisco, whose Assembly district includes Saratoga.

The hearing comes one day before NYRA board members are expected to consider admission and parking fee increases at Saratoga and Belmont. The proposed hikes are largely due to increased pressure from state leaders to balance a budget without the benefit of VLT revenue.

"I think there's significant pressure, some of it's artificial," said Violette, who represents horsemen on the NYRA board.

Under the proposed budget, NYRA executives expect a $250,000 profit next year. While some have expressed interest in other cost saving measures, Violette believes the hikes are fair.

"It seems dramatic because nothing has changed but I think it's a fair request to ante up a little more to go to the best racing in the country," Violette said.

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