The New York State Gaming Commission on Monday approved a rule that will allow tracks to apply for limited exemptions to a rule that mandates that claiming races cannot have purses that are in excess of two times the claiming price for horses in the race.
The approval follows months of work on the issue, including a slight delay in finally getting the rule on the books. The rule allows any track in the state to apply for a temporary exemption to the minimum purse-price ratio, which was put in place in 2012 in the wake of an extraordinary string of fatalities at Aqueduct that had regulators searching for solutions.
The New York Racing Association had asked the commission to consider granting exemptions to the ratio, on the grounds that NYRA needed to be able to write claiming races during its winter meets that offered purses competitive with tracks in neighboring states, such as Pennsylvania, which, like New York, also has casino-subsidized purses but no limits on purse levels.
Barry Sample, the chairman of the commission, noted that the commission’s equine medical director, Dr. Scott Palmer, had endorsed the plan to grant exemptions. He also said that the rule was being passed under the direction that the commission staff should “exercise discretion” in granting exemptions and report back to the full commission in May.
Robert Williams, the executive director of the commission, told the commissioners at the Monday meeting that the rule “appropriately balances competitive and safety concerns.” The rule passed unanimously.
Also at the Monday meeting, the commission approved the release of a set of sports-betting regulations for a 60-day public comment period. The regulations would apply to four upstate casinos that were authorized in a 2013 referendum.
Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told legislators that he supported the promulgation of the rules in order to help the upstate casinos. Under the rules approved on Monday, sports betting would only be allowed at the four casino locations, and wagering from off-site locations would be prohibited.
New York’s legislature is expected to discuss bills this year that would authorize sports betting at other locations in the state. One legislator has already introduced a bill that calls for a constitutional referendum on allowing sports betting at nearly all the licensed gambling locations in the state, including racetracks and OTBs. The earliest a referendum could appear on the ballot would be 2020.