Business coalition seeks to strengthen horse racing in New York

An effort to bolster New York’s $3 billion horse racing industry is moving forward Thursday with a coalition of business groups, trade organizations and unions stepping up its efforts to help the sport.

The groups, part of the We Are New York Horse Racing campaign, will launch an effort to push for binding authority for the New York Racing Association to renovate Belmont Park in Nassau County, home of the Belmont Stakes and the third and final stage of the triple crown of racing. But organizations are also framing it as a broader call to promote the sport across the state.

The coalition will include the New York State Business Council, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and a number of small businesses and non-profit entities.

“Whether up north or up, New York is horse racing country through and through,” said Heather Briccetti Mulligan, president and CEO of the New York State Business Council. “This sport generates billions in economic activity, supports tens of thousands of jobs and contributes tens of millions of dollars in taxes. The modernization of Belmont Park will only increase the tremendous benefits horse racing brings to everyone from farmers in the North Country to workers on the Long Island backstretch to hotel workers in Saratoga – and we are thrilled to help the coalition continue to champion the cause this year in Albany. “

About 19,000 jobs in New York can be traced to the horse racing industry in the state. But the sport has faced challenges in recent years, from the COVID pandemic, to competition for the attention and money of sports bettors with the advent of mobile sports betting on smartphones and the efforts of animal rights activists.

The coalition is looking to build momentum for an upgrade at Belmont Park on Long Island, with NYRA planning a new grandstand at the facility. However, the association needs binding authority approved by the state legislature before the project can move forward.

The coalition is trying to draw a direct line from the ongoing renovations in Belmont to the broader implications for sports in New York, including the effect the project could have for Saratoga Springs.

“The Saratoga Racetrack is the crown jewel of the spa city, but to secure Saratoga’s future, we must rethink and strengthen Belmont Park on Long Island,” said Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce . “The connection between horse racing up north and up north is undeniable. Northern Farms are buoyed by signings for Belmont, while strong Northern racing in the spring and fall keeps the momentum going for record-breaking summer rallies in Saratoga. The future of Belmont and Saratoga are inextricably linked, and on behalf of my constituents in Saratoga, I stand ready to make modernizing Belmont Park a top priority.”

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