There’s exciting news from Albany, New York this week! As reported in the Albany Times-Union, a new bill, introduced by Linda Rosenthal in the Assembly and Zellnor Myrie in the Senate, would end an annual $230 million in New York State horse racing subsidies — the highest in the United States — and redirect the money to social programs.
This bill is supported by the PETA Equine Matters unit — which the Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund has supported since its inception in 2016 — in coalition with New York Communities for Change; Alliance for Quality Education; Human Services Council; New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS); Horseracing Wrongs; New York State Humane Association; LiveOn New York; and Worker Justice Center of New York.
PETA’s work on this campaign dates to a 2013 undercover investigation at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky and Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. The human subject of that investigation was Steve Asmussen, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2016 — but who has also been fined for violating horse drugging rules and violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. One equine subject of the same investigation was Charlie’s Quest, who Asmussen’s barn treated with multiple anti-inflammatory drugs in an apparent attempt to conceal leg injuries prior to a race. PETA rescued Charlie after his leg injuries worsened, and I adopted him in 2016.
Under existing law, New York directs at least $230 million in video lottery gaming revenues per year to prop up horse racing — despite an average of 130 horse deaths on state tracks each year.
This week’s new bill would amend current laws to take payments dedicated to New York’s horse racing industry and instead redirect them into a newly established gaming revenue fund that will be disbursed in the following ways:
- 40 percent will increase the total amount of funding available for public schools.
- 30 percent will be used for agricultural grants, funding for horse care and the adoption of horses, and economic development in those communities where horse racing occurs.
- 25 percent will be made available for human services.
- 5 percent will be made available for the Department of Labor to enhance workforce protections.
The New York bill can also serve as a model for other states — particularly Pennsylvania, which doles out similarly generous horse racing subsidies each year.