The sweet feeling of victory is felt on a daily basis at the Finger Lakes Racetrack. But, for John Buckley, a trainer, even after watching his horse win, he is furious.
“Why would you take something like this, that is functioning and just let it crumble. I can’t figure out why?” asked Buckley.
He and hundreds of others who work to keep racing alive in Ontario County say competition with the new Del Lago casino less than 30 miles down the road will lower purses for horsemen.
“I suspect that after a year or two we would have to close,” predicted David Brown, the president of the Finger Lakes Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.
The state has laws to protect smaller “racinos” like the Finger Lakes Racetrack. The state provides tax breaks to their owners, and that’s already happened in Farmington. And they can also make the new casino, Del Lago in this case, pay for purse protection to ensure the nearby racing industry can survive.
A new casino only has to do that for a racino in their gaming district. According to the state, despite being so close, Del Lago and the Finger Lakes Racetrack are not in the same region, but Tioga Downs, a place over 100 miles away, is. Tioga Downs will receive purse protection.
“We just want what every other racetrack is getting,” said Brown.
Some say they’ll be forced to move if purses are lowered. They’re looking for the state to pass legislation.
“We just need just a little help so this place keeps going,” said Pedro Rodriguez, a jockey who has raced at Finger Lakes for 14 years.
A representative for the Del Lago casino says: “Del Lago has always played by the rules established by the governor, legislature and gaming commission. We continue to play by the rules, which were established more than two years ago. We are confident that the multi-million-dollar tax break Delaware North recently received from New York state will allow FLGR – which has made tens of millions of dollars existing as a virtual monopoly over the last couple of decades – to fairly and adequately compensate the horsemen that race at its facility.”
For more information, visit Faces of the Finger Lakes.