Finalized deal saves horse racing, 1,200 jobs at FLGR; del Lago will pony up to help

Photo by Jessamy Uticone, FL1 News.

The deal is finalized.

It means that horse racing is preserved for at least two more years in Farmington. While the long-term stability and health of Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack is anything but certain — the deal finalized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo puts the facility on slightly more solid footing moving forward.

As predicted though, the deal will come with some help from the newest gaming operation in the region.

Gov. Cuomo announced the agreement to protect 1,200 jobs and preserve horse racing at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington on Thursday.

The two-year plan protects 1,200 jobs associated with the track, while addressing possible shortfalls to the racing program at the track due to the operation of del Lago Resort & Casino located in nearby Tyre. The New York State Gaming Commission today formally endorsed the entire plan after approval of key components by the Finger Lakes Horsemen Protective Benevolent Association.

“Finger Lakes Racetrack is a key economic driver for the region that employs hundreds of New Yorkers, while also supporting the local the agriculture industry, and this agreement will ensure its continued operation without an additional expense to taxpayers,” Cuomo said. “All parties have come together with a shared goal of preserving this storied track and providing security for workers both on- and off-the-track. I thank all stakeholders for their commitment and cooperation in reaching this agreement.”

Gov. Cuomo’s plan maintains the racing program at 2016 purse levels and extends the Finger Lakes Racetrack season to 145 days, with eight races per day from April to November. The average purse and per race for 2017 and 2018 will be $13,690 – up from $13,224 in 2016. The training track opened on March 13 and will operate to early December during 2017 and 2018.

Dave Brown, President of the Finger Lakes Horsemen Protective Benevolent Association said, “Without this timely agreement, the entire 2017 racing season was put in jeopardy as was the livelihoods of the 1,200 families that rely on us for their financial well-being. We are grateful to Gov. Cuomo and his staff for their time and effort in resolving this issue, as well as our local legislators who supported us throughout this process.”
John Poklemba, Chairman of the New York Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund, said, “The Fund stands by to provide necessary support to help Finger Lakes Racetrack thrive. The Governor’s plan ensures the track and horsemen maintain operations without spending a single taxpayer dollar.”

Tom Wilmot, Co Chairman of del Lago Resort & Casino, said, “del Lago, as the newest member of the Finger Lakes community, fully understands the importance of being a good neighbor. We are an integral part of the region and we want shared success. That’s why we are happy to provide this support to ensure good jobs and families stay in the Finger Lakes region.”

Chris Riegle, President and General Manager of Finger Lakes Racetrack, said, “Gov. Cuomo’s agreement provides Finger Lakes with the stability needed in the midst of an evolving gaming landscape. This partnership means that we are all invested in ensuring the track maintains its storied place in the region.”

Photo by Jessamy Uticone, FL1 News

Jeffrey Cannizzo, Executive Director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. and member of the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund Board, said, “Gov. Cuomo has put together a plan that protects an industry critical to New York State. Thoroughbred breeders are a major component of the state’s agricultural sector, and this ensures the continued operation of one of our most essential platforms.  Statistics tell the story. In 2016, NY-breds were responsible for 73% of the total starts at Finger Lakes and earned 76% of all purse money distributed, winning 73% of the 1330 races run. Finger Lakes is imperative for breeders and the Governor’s plan ensures its continuation.”

Details of the Plan to Save Finger Lakes Racetrack

Finger Lakes Racetrack operator Delaware North, del Lago Resort & Casino and the New York Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund would provide necessary support to keep average purses at 2016 levels. Specifically:

  • Delaware North will commit between $600,000 and $1 million, dependent upon video lottery gaming device performance. In return, the horsemen will guarantee an average number of entries per race.
  • del Lago will provide approximately $440,000 to Finger Lakes Racetrack purses. This constitutes the previous expectation of annual payment they would have been required to make in racing support payments to Tioga Downs, had that facility not converted into a commercial casino. In return, del Lago will seek various corporate benefit.
  • The New York Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund agrees, upon Board vote, to commit purse enrichment monies to the Finger Lakes purses. In return, Finger Lakes commits to a dialogue relative to racing surfaces with the Breeders and State, who will consider what economic development funds may be available for such purposes. The State will also evaluate various statutory impacts on the Fund’s operation.

This agreement applies to the 2017 and 2018 racing seasons, with the option to extend to a third year. All parties will reconvene in August 2017 and 2018 to evaluate any actual impact of del Lago’s operation on the racetrack’s operation.  For 2019 and beyond, officials will then have two years of data to help identify a longer-term solution for the track.

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