The horsemen at Monticello Raceway issued a last-minute plea to the New York State Senate on Friday morning to pass legislation to protect their families. Legislation that passed the New York State Assembly last night (A10004B – with the support and leadership of Monticello Assembly Member Aileen Gunther and Racing Chair Gary Pretlow) is being tied up in the New York State Senate. If the legislation is not approved, the horsemen, their families and their children will lose their health insurance coverage on July 1 and future racing at the legendary harness track will be jeopardized.
"Today is absolutely the last chance we have for these families and for continued racing at Monticello, and so our future is quite literally in the Senate's hands this morning,” said Alan Schwartz, President of the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association.
The Monticello horsemen are engaged in a lengthy contract dispute with the track's owners and due to an antiquated state law – and since they are racing without a contract – they are only able to access 1 percent of their own purse funds to pay for health insurance, which is far too little to cover the policy cost. The proposed Albany legislation would simply update this outdated 1 percent mandate (which was enacted in 1992 when insurance costs were far less) to whatever amount was contained in the recently expired contract. This would provide enough additional funds (again, from the horsemen's own purse money) to pay for continued insurance and avoid default on July 1.
"We have dozens of members with spouses and children whose only health insurance is through the horsemen's association, and so this policy is the only way they can pay for them to go to a doctor or a hospital. This legislation does nothing more than allow us to use our own purse money to pay for our medical coverage, and it's just not right for the tracks to hold this over us. I'm just praying that none of these kids get sick if we lose this insurance,” said Mr. Schwartz. He concluded, "To think that our livelihoods and our health insurance could fall through the cracks because of Senate inaction is unconscionable.” (Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association)