If job creation is the question, then horses are the answer, according to the New York State Equine Industry Economic Impact Study, which shows the equine industry currently has a $4.2 billion effect on the state’s economy and generated 33,000 full-time jobs in 2011 alone.
“My message is simple, we have to keep investing in the horse racing industry,” said Sen. John Bonacic R-Mount Hope.
With job creation on the front burner for many in state government, Bonacic, and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, joined leaders of the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance last Tuesday at the State Capitol to release the report. Both men chair their houses’ gaming and racing committees.
The report documents how the industry’s jobs and revenue contribute to the New York state economy. The study also illustrates the link between horse racing, recreational horse riding and horse farming.
Other speakers included Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Association; Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders; Mike Kimelman, board member of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York; and Jeff Williams, manager of governmental relations for the New York Farm Bureau.
“In Ulster County, Mike Kimelman, who is right here in front of me, has one of the top breeding farms in the state and it creates hundreds of jobs,” said Bonacic.
Every member of the equine industry contributes to state and local business of New York’s 62 counties, and according to the report, there are 2,300 breeding, training and racing facilities statewide devoted to Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. In addition, there are 2,300 family-owned farms and stables, commercial enterprises that include show horse operations, boarding and riding stables and breeding farms for recreation and show horses.
“This is an industry that cannot fail and cannot suffer, because there are a lot of people depending on it,” said Cannizzo. “The trickle down effect from this industry is very unique and it goes far.”
Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, said the results of the study show that, with every 10 horses coming into the state, eight jobs are created. The current racehorse population is 23,100, and there are 157,000 horses in New York state. For every racehorse coming into the state $92,000 goes into the economy.
“The horse should be our state animal,” said Violette. “It comes as no surprise that the equine industry creates tens of thousands of jobs. There is so much that goes into the raising and training of a horse. It is very labor-intensive.”
Horses also contribute to the agricultural industry of New York state.
“Horse farms create jobs, support the agricultural infrastructure and drive economic development in many regions of the state,” said Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau.
Even after the global economic crisis, equine commerce has experienced a 75 percent increase. This increase can be largely attributed to the expansion of video-lottery terminals at Aqueduct.
“From the moment Thoroughbred breeders in New York felt confident that a revenue stream from the Aqueduct VLTs was on the way to bolster purses and incentive awards, our industry has gone from bust to boom,” said Cannizzo.
Bonacic and Pretlow are working with fellow legislators to get a constitutional amendment passed that would legalize casino gambling. The legislation calls for seven casinos, however the locations are still undecided.
“We encourage the governor, working with the Legislature, to put these casinos close to racinos and the tracks where it is appropriate,” said Bonacic. “It’s the governor’s plan, and I happen to agree with him, that the casino branding of licenses will be a competitive process.”
Bonacic said he thinks there should be more than one casino in the Catskill region.
“We already have a history in statutory authority for three in the Catskill region,” said Bonacic. “The governor will be involved; the leaders will be involved as well as Assemblyman Pretlow and myself.”
Pretlow said he thinks the public will not vote for a constitutional amendment until they know the specific details of the plan for expanding legalized gambling.
“I don’t think the public will vote unless they know the who, when, where, what and hows of these proposed casinos,” said Pretlow. “It might be two, it might be six, it may be none, I don’t know. But the general public, I don’t believe, will vote on the constitutional amendment unless they know where those casino’s are going to be.”
Pretlow also noted that a substantial portion of racing industry and gaming profits goes toward the state’s education system and helping young people.