A review of how much horse track operators in New York withhold on winning bets was one of the issues discussed Tuesday afternoon in Schenectady by the Racing Fan Advisory Council.
In its 2012 report, the council recommended lowering takeout rates at the state’s seven harness and four thoroughbred racetracks, and members reiterated that Tuesday. Council Chairman Patrick Connors said they need to come up with a plan that would convince track operators lower rates would mean bettors would wager more money.
The likelihood of this happening at the Saratoga Race Course is not great, as the New York Racing Association, which operates the course, didn’t address takeouts in a letter earlier this year responding to the council’s annual report. Connors made note of that omission at the council’s meeting.
This was the first meeting for Michael Mills, whom Assembly Democrats recently appointed to the council. His summers growing up were spent at the Saratoga Race Course, and he had “50 things” he wanted to show NYRA at the course that needed improvement.
The first one he mentioned at the meeting was an upgrade of the “horrendous” televisions in the backyard of the course.
Mills also said he wanted to rethink the way people claim picnic tables, which can be an unsafe stampede on busy days; change the way lines form for food vendors, as busy spots now block major thoroughfares; and make exits wider so there is less congestion on busy days.
At all state tracks, he called for the creation of a remedial betting window where inexperienced bettors could be aided by seasoned tellers.
There was also a discussion at the meeting about the council’s I Love NY Racing promotion and how that could be folded into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewed investment in the I Love NY tourism program. Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park advised council members they should talk to the governor’s office and Empire State Development about receiving funds through the I Love NY program, which Cuomo wants to aim more toward upstate, where most tracks are located.
Rethinking the NYRA Rewards program, which gives benefits to big gamblers, was also suggested by the council, with Connors arguing the current threshold to receive benefits is too high to attract new or moderate gamblers.
The council will likely host an open forum at the Saratoga Race Course during the summer meet, as it did last year, where fans can voice comments, complaints and suggestions.
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