Race-Horse Buyers From Florida Doing Business in Casino-Advantaged New York
Around the State
A casino that opened in Queens two years ago virtually saved horseracing's gloomy life in the state of New York, and it has thoroughbred breeders in the Empire State banking record-shattering revenue -- even luring business from Florida.
All because the state directed a portion of Resorts World Casino revenue to juice the prize money, or purses, at Saratoga and two downstate race tracks. Resorts World, the only casino in the city, is a Genting New York property at Aqueduct.
Proof of good times for horse breeders is in the numbers. An Aug. 10-11 Fasig-Tipton Co. auction of thoroughbreds at Saratoga presented a continuum of broken records for the industry:
• Total sales (up 65 percent from the 2012 record of $8.6 million).
• Average sale price (up 15 percent from 2012 record, a growth of $10,000, to an average of $72,500).
• Horses sold (almost 200, up 40 percent from last year's record roster).
• Number of horses selling for six figures (43, more than double the 20 such horses last year).
• Most expensive horse (sold for $430,000, or $70,000 more than the record, set in 1999).
Sales from only the auction's second night, Aug. 11, totaled $1 million more than buyers had spent on both days combined at the sales just two summers ago.
"I counsel my clients that if we'll have a shot at our A+ picks, then we better be prepared to roll up our sleeves and swing. If not, we'll be fighting for second-stringers," a buyer named Nick de Meric told the Albany Business Review by phone after returning to his Florida home. de Meric outspent everyone for the second time in three years, buying $1.14 million of future race horses.
"The quality was far and away the best it's ever been, ever," he told the publication. "They're just bigger, stronger, better-produced animals."
While Florida contemplates gaming policy that will impact its $2.2 billion horseracing industry, the New York Racing Association is getting 7 percent of Resort World Casino's revenue -- 4 percent for capital improvements and 3 percent for operations. Another 6.5 percent is dedicated to purses alone.
In terms of revenue from horsebreeding, Florida's is considerable, ranking No. 3 in the nation.
Phil Combest, president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, told Sunshine State News, "At last count, the Florida horse industry employed approximately 104,000 people. A great deal of our revenue, about 72 percent, comes from interstate simulcasting and that number isn't reported to the state because it's not taxed.
"What I'm saying is, the value of Florida horsebreeding alone is huge, horse racing remains a popular sport, and it's in the state's best interest to treat it well," Combest said.
Meanwhile, in New York: "Over a decade ago we asked for help, and we got help, and the response to our needs and the protection of our business has given us a rebuilding which we are just starting to experience, which at first seemed like it would be a Band-Aid but really it became more of a stimulus," Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said of the deal the New York Legislature struck on behalf of farms, breeders and the entire horseracing industry.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.