Gural Retorts To Joint Statement Regarding New York City Off-Track Betting

Published: December 9, 2010 03:15 pm EST

On Thursday, December 9, American Racing and Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gural, whose company owns Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, issued a statement in response to a joint letter which was previously released by harness racing industry stakeholder groups in

New York State.

The letters and statements are in regard to the closure of New York City Off-Track Betting, the entity which handled more than $750 million in annual wagering on horse racing.

To read the joint letter which had been issued by the Empire State Harness Horsemen’s Alliance, click here.

Gural's statement appears below.

As the owner of Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs and a member of the Creditors Committee for OTB, I feel that I have to respond to the statement issued by the Empire State Harness Horsemen’s Alliance which claims to represent almost all of the horsemen in New York State.

I am proud to say that they certainly do not represent the horsemen at Tioga Downs. As you know, this group vigorously opposed the legislation that would have kept OTB open and now seems relatively unconcerned with the fact that it is closing.

I want to make it clear to the industry that the closing of OTB is a disastrous development for our industry. While I totally agree that OTB as it has been run is not a well oiled-machine, I think that everyone involved recognizes that in order for it to survive long-term it has to go in a new direction and open the type of facilities that we have seen opened in New Jersey and appear to be quite successful.

Unfortunately, from an economic standpoint, the closing of New York City OTB will be disastrous. I expect that the breeding fund will lose approximately $1.5 million and that the racetracks will lose an additional $11 million, 50 per cent of which goes to horsemen in the form of purses. In total this represents a loss of approximately $7 million in purses and breeding funds statewide. Worse yet, sometime next year Aqueduct will open and that will take business away from Yonkers which will probably cost an additional $1.5 million to the breeding fund in 2012 and cause purses at Yonkers to decline by about 20 per cent.

Making matters even worse, the likelihood is that the other OTBs will also eventually fail and the head of District 37, the largest union in the state that represents the 1,000 workers who lost their jobs yesterday at Christmas time, assured me that the union will do everything they can to insure that no legislation is passed in the future that will help our industry or the other OTBs. That does not bode well for the future of horseracing.

Another negative has been the numerous newspaper editorials written on this subject which all make reference to the fact that horseracing is a dying business and should no longer be subsidized by the taxpayers. The amazing part of all of this is that the legislation this group opposed would actually have increased purses statewide by about 10 per cent and kept the breeding fund where it currently is.

All in all, the events earlier this week, in my opinion, are an unmitigated disaster but apparently our largest breeding farms and all but the Tioga Harness Horsemen’s Association disagree. Is it any wonder that our sport is where we are today?



Michael I. Deutsch


Is there no chance to have the racetracks take over all off track betting operations and have them the beneficiaries of symbiotic relationship that would profit all tracks, Breeders, taxpayers and the State of New York. NYCOTB was as poorly run an operation as can be and their disdain for the agreements in place borders on criminal.

Just take over the problem as you have so capably done in operating your Tioga Downs enterprise and all will end up rewarded. As far as the Union person who threatened the industry's future, perhaps he woeful be well off to realign his endeavors to promoting a mutually profitable off track wagering parlor operation throughout the state. His union members will not benefit from destructive opposition to progress.

All the best to you and the Racing participants in New York. Get the business plan before the legislature and move forward.