November 17, 2022
“And They’re Off!” – Business Council of NYS and Queens Chamber of Commerce Join Coalition of Small Businesses, Unions, Nonprofits, and Trade Groups Advocating for Sport of Horse Racing, Launch 2023 Legislative Push to Sustain the Future of Horse Racing at Saratoga and Belmont Park
Coalition will make securing bonding authority to modernize Belmont Park a major budget priority
Groups cite poll showing two-thirds of New Yorkers support project to re-imagine Belmont Park
Horse racing in New York State is responsible for 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual economic impact
Albany, NY – Today, major organizations from across New York State including the Business Council of New York State and Queens Chamber of Commerce joined We Are New York Horse Racing, a coalition of small businesses, labor unions, nonprofits, and trade associations that advocate for the future of horse racing in New York State. To welcome the new members, the coalition gathered in Albany to launch their efforts ahead of the 2023 Legislative Session, with a focus on securing approval for the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) to modernize Belmont Park on Long Island. This project would ensure the sport has a strong future downstate, provide a boost to small businesses across New York, and safeguard horse racing’s immense impact in Saratoga for years to come.
Earlier this year, a poll found 68 percent of voters statewide – and 75 percent of voters on Long Island – support authorizing state-backed bonds for the Belmont modernization project. In addition, voters across the state have an overwhelmingly favorable view of horse racing, supporting the sport by a 3-to-1 margin (51% favorable to 17% unfavorable).
“Whether upstate or downstate, New York is horse racing country through and through,” said Heather Briccetti Mulligan, President & CEO of the Business Council of New York State. “This sport generates billions in economic activity, supports tens of thousands of jobs, and contributes tens of millions of dollars in taxes. Modernizing Belmont Park will only increase the tremendous benefits horse racing brings to everyone from farmers in the North Country to backstretch workers on Long Island to hotel workers in Saratoga – and we are excited to help the coalition continue to make the case this year in Albany.”
Built in 1905, Belmont Park is one of North America’s elite thoroughbred racetracks and home to the Belmont Stakes, the final jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Despite its undeniable credentials, however, Belmont’s grandstand and other facilities have not been renovated since 1968. As a result, major events like the year-end Breeders’ Cup World Championship have chosen other, more modern facilities – threatening to undermine horse racing’s status as an economic engine in New York.
In order to secure the sport’s future in New York and attract mega-events like the Breeders’ Cup back to Belmont, NYRA plans to construct a modernized grandstand at Belmont Park that would transform the facility back into a world-class horse racing destination. This project would generate immediate construction jobs and drive tourism to Long Island for decades to come, creating a long-term economic impact. To finance this redevelopment project, the New York State legislature must approve bonding authority for NYRA. Importantly, NYRA would be responsible for all debt service obligations on the bonds and no taxpayer funds would be used for the project. In fact, taxpayers would gain value, because NYRA would be spending its own funds to upgrade Belmont Park, which is owned by the state.
While Belmont Park is located on Long Island, modernizing Belmont and maintaining a strong horse racing ecosystem across the state will have a monumental impact upstate. Each year, NYRA’s summer meet at Saratoga Race Course attracts over a million paying fans and generates nearly $240 million in economic impact. The 2022 Summer Meet alone generated a record all-sources wagering handle of $878 million with average daily attendance of nearly 27,000. Modernizing Belmont would strengthen the horse racing ecosystem throughout the state, and help sustain the immense economic impact Saratoga Race Course has on the upstate economy.
“Saratoga Race Course is the crown jewel of the Spa City, but in order to secure Saratoga’s future, we need to re-imagine and strengthen Belmont Park,” said Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “The connection between horse racing upstate and downstate is undeniable, and the success of the annual summer meet depends on the continued strength of the competition at Belmont Park. The future of Belmont and Saratoga are inextricably linked, and on behalf of my membership in Saratoga County, I am ready to make modernizing Belmont Park a top priority.”
In 2022, the We Are New York Horse Racing coalition helped to secure the introduction of legislation (S09022/A1010) that would authorize this bonding authority. Now, the coalition is marshaling its resources to make a new, state-of-the art Belmont a major priority in state budget negotiations.
“Belmont might be across the border in Nassau County, but here in Queens we understand that building a new, world-class Belmont Park will have an immense, positive impact on the downstate region and the entire state – and we’re proud to support that goal,” said Thomas J. Grech, President & CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “This project would not cost taxpayers a single cent, but it would unlock immense economic activity in Queens and on Long Island. It’s a win-win for our communities.”
“Our coalition continues to grow because horse racing has a positive impact on every corner of New York State – from Batavia to Belmont. We have built tremendous momentum going into this legislative session, and we will keep pushing and make modernizing Belmont a major budget priority in 2023,” said Jack Sterne, spokesperson for the We Are New York Horse Racing Coalition. “Building a new Belmont Park will create jobs for New Yorkers, expand economic opportunity on Long Island, drive tourism throughout the region, and sustain the sport of horse racing for decades to come. That’s why a supermajority of New Yorkers support this project, and why we are confident our leaders in Albany will take action this session.”
“New York’s harness racing, breeding, and agriculture industries have experienced a true renaissance over the past decade and we’ve regained our rightful position as a world leader in harness racing,” said Joe Faraldo, President, Standardbred Owners Association of New York. “In order to keep our industry generating thousands of jobs and billions in positive economic impact, we must continue to support and invest in New York State racing. We are proud to be part of the We Are New York Horse Racing coalition and we look forward to working with our partners across all facets of the racing industry to share our important message with policy makers.”
The Newly Relaunched Coalition Includes the Following Organizations:
About the We Are NY Horse Racing Coalition
We Are NY Horse Racing is a coalition of small businesses, labor unions, non-profits, and trade associations who recognize the importance of horse racing as an economic engine that creates and sustains jobs for New York families. In total, the sport generates $3 billion annual economic activity in New York State and sustains 19,000 jobs for New Yorkers.
Launched in September of 2021, the coalition has quickly grown to include more than 50 members committed to educating the public about the role the sport plays in the New York State economy and advocating for legislation that supports horse racing in the Empire State. In addition to a paid advertising campaign, the membership has engaged in dialogue with lawmakers, participated in legislative hearings and conducted grass roots events to build support for the sport.
For additional information, visit www.nyhorseracing.com