Depending on the site selection committee appointed by the New York Gaming Commission, December 17, 2014 may become a red-letter day in New York standardbred racing. If all the decisions go against racing-operated sites, over the next two years, up to three harness tracks may cease operation and the outcome of a fourth being unknown. Of course, approval of their proposals will bring stability to racing.
Consider the following. Monticello Raceway, through its parent corporation Empire Resorts, is partners in a proposed development called Montreign. Of course, there are other applicants for licensing in Monticello's market area along with Orange County. Failure to obtain the prize may put the Raceway on life support as the contract signed with the MHHA guarantees only two years of racing without Montreign approval. One thing going in Empire's favor is it is expected while the other regions are expected to get one casino license, it is expected two licenses will be offered in the Sullivan-Orange County region.
Then there is Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. While Vernon Downs is part of an exclusion zone as part of a deal made with Native American tribes, gaming revenue at Tioga is used to support the purse structure at Vernon Downs. It is thought that Tioga Down's proposal is up against two other proposals, the Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County (which would hurt Finger Lakes' bottom line) and the Traditions Resort and Casino in Johnson City. Jeff Gural has previously stated that if Traditions is the victor, Tioga Downs and by default, Vernon Downs would be in jeopardy of closing.
While some insiders are speculating that Tioga Downs and Montreign are leading candidates, the same can't be said for Saratoga Casino and Raceway's two proposals, one in East Greenbush and one in Newburgh. A sure thing, a casino at the Raceway, was torpedoed by local resistance and Saratoga Springs' government which voted against a full-fledged casino at the track, forcing Saratoga to look at alternate sites. While no pronouncements have been made by management, it is certain that play at the Raceway will go down. If no casino is operated by Saratoga Raceway, purses may take a hit as well.
While for the most part there is confidence in racing circles, rest assured a lot of people will be holding their collective breathes tomorrow. Starting at 2pm tomorrow, we will know if there is a reason to worry. A webcast will be available by clicking here.