N.Y. Track Seeks More Dates, Purse Money
The harness track at Saratoga Casino Hotel (l.) in New York has requested additional race dates to make up for lost purse money during the coronavirus pandemic. The track horsepersons association also wants Capital Region Gaming to pay the association what it owes to elevated purses.
The harness track at Saratoga Casino Hotel has asked the New York Gaming Commission for permission to extend racing dates past September 2 to the end of September. Tom McTygue, the president of the Saratoga Harness Horsepersons Association, said if the track runs two days a week for reduced purses, they can race until October 12.
The track reopened June 18 and scheduled 31 cards, without fans, through Sept. 2, using surplus purse account funds.
Any more race dates beyond those depends on whether Capital Region Gaming, which owns Rivers Casino, and Off-Track Betting, pays the track $825,116 they owe. By tradition, the organization pays the track every quarter, but the gaming commission only requires payment at year’s end. OTB owes the harness track about $300,000 as well, McTygue said.
Capital Region has tried to avoid payment, citing the Covid-19 state of emergency which shut down all casinos, according to The Post-Star.
McTygue said slot revenue from Capital Region Gaming also pays a portion of the health insurance program for the former Saratoga Raceway harness workers and the Department of Environmental Control’s manure removal program.
In an August 14 reply to McTygue, Robert Williams, the Gaming Commission’s executive director, said his agency does not mediate such differences.
“That’s not right,” McTygue said of the Gaming Commission’s response. “We’re talking about jobs, we’re talking about livelihoods, people getting out of the business.”
Capital Region collected the money and is sitting on it. “We need it now; we’re running for 45 percent less purses already,” he said. “Owners aren’t losing money because we’re only running three days a week as opposed to five, normally.”
In March 2019, Saratoga Casino Hotel and the harness horsepersons agreed to a seven-year deal which guarantees 170 race dates and purse funds annually. At the time, the harness horsepersons represented 850 owners, trainers and drivers. Unless the casinos re-open soon, there is no way to hold its own management to that contract because there won’t be any money, McTygue said.