Pretlow Says Belmont Probably Wouldn’t Have Scratched

Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee Chairman J. Gary Pretlow thinks the races at Belmont, including this year’s highly anticipated Belmont Stakes, would have gone off even if a settlement hadn’t been reached with a labor union and the New York Racing Association.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon announced that NYRA and International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 3, a union that represents starting gate and maintenance workers had come to an accord in order to avert a strike at the track.

The governor’s office said in a statement that the deal helps “ensure” I’ll Have Another’s odds of winning the first Triple Crown in 34 years won’t be scratched.

“With the potential for the nation’s first Triple Crown in more than three decades, this year’s Belmont Stakes holds particular excitement for horse racing fans here in New York and across the globe,” Cuomo said. “I applaud the negotiating units on both sides for their hard work and commitment in reaching an agreement.”

But Pretlow says the races would have gone off anyway, albeit with “replacement workers” (unions and others call non-unionized workers who cross picket lines “scabs”).

“I wouldn’t call them scabs. I would call them replacement workers would have been used and I think NYRA would ahve been within their rights to do that because notice was short of the action what the Local 3 would have been. So I think that all things considered they came to an agreement, that’s a great thing,” he said.

Pretlow added that the agreement avoids “ill-feeling” between labor and management.

“So it’s a good thing, I’m glad that all 10 races are going to go off as scheduled,” he said.

Skelos Sheds Doubt On Casino Expansion

ICYMI: During an extended CapTon interview last night, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos raised doubts about the expansion of non-Indian run casino gambling in New York, saying the complicated process necessary for a constitutional amendment might not succeed.

“If you have Belmont in my district, or neighboring district…people in those communities, they want some sort of economic development,” the Long Island Republican told me during a sit-down in the conference room adjoining his office.

“If they get real economic development there, and make it a destination, they may not want gambling. But it may not work without gambling, and certainly any other racinos throughout the state, if others get full-fledged gambling, I’m sure they’re going to want it.”

“It’s just a long way to go, the process. And then there’s the referendum, and I’m not convinced that it will actually passed…I just think it’s very close in people’s minds.”

“I think if certain areas do not get the gambling that they’re looking for, they’ll come out against it.”

To review: The amendment, which doesn’t include any detail about where the seven casinos would be constructed, has been given first passage by the Legislature.

It still needs to be passed again by a newly-elected Legislature (in other words, the one seated next January), and then approved in a public referendum.

As you’ll recall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it quite clear yesterday that he is “100 percent” opposed to co-locating the seven new casinos at the state’s nine horse tracks – some of which have so-called “racinos” with VLTs.

Cuomo even went so far as to call the racino system a “scandal.”

In a separate interview with CapTon’s Nick Reisman, Skelos made sure to note (ahem, governor) that the Legislature is going to certainly have a say in where these cainos – should they ever be legalized – will be located.

As for the collapse of the Genting casino/mega convention center deal, well, Skelos says he always thought that was a “long shot” anyway.

“I think that some of the demands that Genting had made in terms of exclusivity…I think their mission is to control gambling in New York State,” the majority leader said.

“And if that’s one of the reasons why it was not successful, then I would agree with the governor that you couldn’t deal away all your cards to one entity.”

Hayward and Kehoe On Leave

New York Racing Association President and CEO Charlie Hayward, along with General Counsel Patrick Kehoe have been put on unpaid leave pending further review as the controversy surrounding the incorrect takeout rates grew today.

“NYRA takes the matters identified by the Franchise Oversight Board and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board extremely seriously,” said NYRA Chairman Steven Duncker. “NYRA will take all appropriate steps and actions to cooperate with the State’s inquiries and insure the integrity of our operations. As part of these efforts, we will respond to Chairman Megna’s letter as requested by May 4th. NYRA has worked diligently over the past number of years to improve the racing and agricultural industries in New York State and enhance its national status as an industry leader, and we will continue with that commitment.”

A preliminary report issued Sunday from the state Racing and Wagering Board found the association, a public-benefit corporation, knowingly withheld nearly $8.6 million and may have violated the law.

Hayward, a familiar face at the state’s racetracks, had initially said the incorrect takeout rates from the gambling winnings had been an oversight, but later told the publisher of The Daily Racing Form “political forces” played a role in stopping him from taking further action and waited after pressure from the Cuomo administration.

The matter has been referred to the state inspector general’s office.

Earlier today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the report “shocking.”

“If the facts are correct, it’s very troubling to say the least,” the governor said at a Red Room news conference. “It’s been referred to the inspector general and we’ll await the report.”

Read The NYRA Report

The preliminary report prepared by the Racing and Wagering Board into the withholding of winnings found the New York Racing Association knew about the incorrect payment rates and appears to actively worked to keep the information from becoming public, with The Daily Racing Form playing a role.

The report, first written about in The New York Times this morning, found that NYRA withheld $8.5 million in winnings to bettors over a 15-month period at the state’s most prominent racetracks in Saratoga, and at Aqueduct and Belmont.

The report is particularly troubling for NYRA chief Charles Hayward, who said the withholding was an oversight. The report found that Steven Crist, a former associated of Hayward’s now publisher of The Daily Racing Form, had initially forwarded a reader’s email expressing concern about the issue. Hayward replied that “political forces” played a role in stopping him from taking further action and Crist would later write that the association had made an honest mistake.

“The documentation received from NYRA indicates a knowledge of the violation, failure to report that information in a timely fashion and take corrective action. While it is clear NYRA knew they were collecting an inappropriate rate based on an August 2011 email, they decided to continue to collect the excess takeout in violation of the Racing Law without notifying any parties including the Board, the FOB, its tote company or its auditors,” the reoprt found.

And the report, prepared by Chairman John Sabini and submitted to the state Division of Budget and to NYRA, says the still-ongoing investigation has yet to review documents that the association is yet to provide.

NYRA has yet to submit several thousand documents that NYRA has indicated are responsive to the Board’s request. The Board will continue to conduct its review and pursue the information that NYRA has yet to provide as of the date of this interim report.

NYRA Interim Report – Takeout

Gambling Merger Would Have Four Heads

The legislation that would merge the Division of Lottery with the Racing and Wagering Board would create a four-headed division system overseen by the seven-member Commission on Gaming, led by an executive director.

The legislation can found here.

The measure, one of three budget bills introduced last night, would create divisions within the commission: Division of Lottery, Division of Horse Racing and Pari-Mutual Wagering, Division of Gaming and Division of Charitable Gaming.

The latter seems almost solely focused on overseeing bingo operations, according to the legislation.

The division that appears to have the broadest authority would be the Division of Gaming, which would be constituted just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes a constitutional amendment that would expand casino gambling around the state. Lawmakers have already agreed to seven casinos in the upstate region.

The consolidation would also merge the governor’s power: He would be allowed to make all seven appoints to the commission, plus hire the executive director. Their appointments would be subject to Senate confirmation. All would receive pay, plus expenses.

Gambling Bill Introduced

Here’s the bill that would expand gambling in New York State. A reader points out that it allows for the building of 7 casinos, not 10 as has been floated in the past.

Gambling Bill

Gambling Bill

MacKay Backs Cuomo On Gambling To A Point (Updated)

Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay says he and his organization are falling in line on a proposed expansion of casino gambling in New York, a move that provides political support to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a longtime ally.

The Independence Party approved a resolution congratulating Cuomo on proposing the amendment, saying the proposal “will provide economic engines for many region.”

MacKay also wrote a letter to all 211 members of the Legislature to boost the proposal as well:

“The Independence Party of New York firmly believes that this is the path expanded gambling should take and as an example of our commitment to this initiative unanimously passed the enclosed resolution at the aforesaid meeting,” MacKay wrote.

Cuomo is pushing for the expansion of gambling in New York, saying it would create jobs and take advantage of what is already available at Indian-run casinos in parts of upstate.

In addition to the gambling expansion, the governor also wants to provide non-monetary state support for a convention center in Queens next to the Aqueduct Racetrack. The convention center is not being paid for with state money, but is being built on land currently owned by New York and the Port Authority.

Update: A reader points out that a closer read of the Independence Party’s letter does not go full tilt in supporting the Cuomo amendment as it is proposed. Instead, the party appears to endorse a more narrow path of what is already in place.

They point to this language in the letter:

First, these Racinos, Aqueduct, Empire City, Monticello, Saratoga, Tioga, Vernon, Finger Lakes, Batavia and Hamburg, are already successful, known entities within our State. Second, the various regions of the State of New York where these Racinos exist will realize a significant economic impact in jobs and revenue by the expansion and the out year operation of these Racinos. Finally, this common sense approach to locating these games at the established Racinos will not only make it easier for the legislature to pass the gambling amendment at two successive legislative secessions but it will make it infinitely easier to get it passed at the subsequent state referendum.

MacKay Letter on Gambling 3-2-12

Resolution of Independence Party of New York

Siena: Support For Casino Gambling And Cuomo Dips

Today’s Siena poll finds New Yorker’s support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his proposal to expand non-Indian casino gaming across the state via a constitutional amendment have slipped slightly.

Cuomo’s favorability rating remains very high at 69-25, but that’s down from 74-18 last month. His job approval is at 58-42, down from 61-37.

According to Siena pollster Steve Greenberg, Cuomo lost ground with the state’s Republicans, dropping from 71-23 to 57-33. But that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, since at least two-thirds of voters in every region of the state continue to view him favorably.

The gambling question now divides voters virtually down the middle in nearly every region, party and ideology. Support is now at 48 percent, while opposition is at 49 percent. That’s down from 52-44 percent support last month.

Oddly, support remains strong – at least 60 percent in every region and party – for Cuomo’s plan to build the nation’s largest convention center – at no cost to the taxpayers – at Aqueduct in Queens.

That plan is closely tied to the governor’s push to legalize non-Indian casinos.

Support remains strong – 66-29 – for Cuomo’s call to create a sixth state pension tier to save government employers money and ask future public employees to contribute more toward their own retirements.

On the education front, half of New Yorkers believe the new teacher evaluation system deal will improve the quality of education, compared to 38 percent who say it will have no effect and three percent who volunteered that it will actually make things worse.

By a 57-30 percent majority voters believe the agreement is fair to teachers.

In a series of seven questions about specific aspects of Cuomo’s job performance, he scored highest on improving Albany’s ethical standards and the state’s fiscal condition.

On education, however, 22 percent of voters said his performance has improved the quality of education, while 27 percent believe he has made it more of a problem. A plurality, 45 percent, said his work on education has had no effect at all.

More than 50 percent of New Yorkers continue to have no opinion about the two other statewide elected official: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

However, their negatives far outweigh their positives when it comes to job approve, with the AG at 30-43 and the comptroller at 26-45.

In the case of the Legislature, the Senate is viewed more favorably than the Assembly with a 42-46 favorability rating, up from 39-49 in January. The Assembly’s standing has actually dropped to 37-49 from 39-46.

SNY030512 Crosstabs

NYGA Predicts $3.3 Billion Boom From Legalized Gambling

The New York Gaming Association has released a new report suggesting that legalizing full casino gambling in the state would “generate more than $3.3 billion in economic output, which includes wages, salaries and the purchase of goods and services.” It goes on to suggest that New York would see 17 thousand construction-related jobs, and more than 8,000 permanent jobs. They also estimate that recurring annual revenue for the state would be $976 million.

“New York Gaming Association members have a solid record of creating jobs and bolstering their regional economies,” James Featherstonhaugh, President of New York Gaming Association said. “As this report clearly illustrates, the authorization of live table games will allow our members to create more jobs, provide additional revenue for our state, and to help local governments. Just as important, our support for agriculture, breeding and the racing industry will increase tremendously.”

The study goes on to suggest that casino gambling will boost other areas of the economy as well, including the purchases of goods and services, and the horse racing and breeding industries.

New York City firm Appleseed conducted the study. It’s founder is former Mario Cuomo and Hugh Carey aide Hugh O’Neill.

Racetrack Statewide Report 2-28-12

Senecas Say Operations Translate To $640M

An economic impact study released today and commissioned by the Seneca Nation Of Indians found their economic impact translated into $640 million to New York and $1 billion in overall revenue.

The report makes the case that casino gambling is a boon to the state and, in particular, to the Seneca Nation.

“This latest study reinforces conclusively that the Seneca Nation provides jobs, investment, spending and growth matched by few other entities in Western New York,” said Nation President Robert Odawi Porter in a statement. “The recession affected our businesses, as it did most others, but we remain among the top employers and purchasers of goods and services in this region. Clearly, what’s best for the Seneca Nation is best for New York.”

The report comes as the Senecas lobby diligently against any proposal that would expand casino gambling into their so-called exclusivity zone that encompasses western New York. And the study breaks down the Seneca Nation’s gambling and casino operations: Seneca Gaming Corp., employed 3,102 people in 2010 at three casinos, two resort hotels and 13 restaurants.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a broadly worded amendment to the state’s Constitution that would expand and legalize gambling. Cuomo said at a news conference last week that the amendment voters would have to approve through a referendum would be broad and then lawmakers would work to narrow down the law.

The SNI is holding $400 million in payments to the state in escrow in order to insure favorable exclusivity rights.

Seneca Economic Impact 2010