As expected, the closing of the bankrupt New York City Off-Track Betting system has caused declines in handle on harness racing at Empire City at Yonkers Raceway. Robert Galterio, vice president and general manager at Yonkers, said the track’s total handle is presently down 10-15 percent, or between $100,000 to $150,000 on a Saturday night.
“NYRA (the New York Racing Association, which presently has a live Thoroughbred meet at Aqueduct) has been able to make some inroads in picking up some of the New York City OTB business,” said Galterio, “but we really haven’t been able to do so at night. We do have some new people coming to the track in the afternoons.”
Galterio said he believes Yonkers can pick up some of the missing OTB handle if it can get its races back on local television and be part of an advanced deposit wagering (ADW) network.
“NYRA has been able to secure time on a public access station and we are talking to them about the evening hours to see if we can broadcast then,” said Galterio. “We’re also going to start simulcasting to NYRA, and they have a pretty extensive ADW. If we can combine both of those things—the TV and the ADW—that should help.”
When asked about business levels at other racetracks, including the Meadowlands, Galterio believes the weather has played a big role in causing declines.
“I think it’s a little too early to say that horse racing is in a free fall,” said Galterio. “We are down in other areas as well as OTB, and I don’t think you can overlook the weather. We’ve had three major snowstorms in New York, and in other parts of the country there have been storms as well.”
When asked about the impact of professional football--particularly the post-season play by the New York Jets--on horse racing handle, Galterio said he believes any professional sports team can compete for horse racing handle. “I don’t know that the Jets have affected us, except when they have played on Saturday nights. Whenever the (New York) Yankees are in the playoffs, that always had an impact on us.”