By Nathan Mayberg
ALBANY February 17, 2006 Three days ago, management at Monticello Raceway and the horsemen were facing the possibility of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board not scheduling any further dates for racing.
But on Wednesday, the sides agreed to binding arbitration through the board, which could settle several of the outstanding issues between the sides.
And racing will continue.
The board, in a special session yesterday, agreed to schedule dates at the track through June. Simulcasting will return immediately as well. The board scheduled further meetings to address specific issues brought by the two sides.
The horsemen will receive 7.5 percent of video gaming machine (VGM) revenues once again. Purses will return to the level they stood at before they were cut in half last month.
The track had cut the purses after the horsemen refused to approve the simulcast signal. The horsemen were reacting to managements decision to cut off medical benefits. The Monticello Harness Horsemans Association also claims to have agreed with the raceway on a deal to give them 9.25 percent of VGM profits. The deal was struck before the tracks share of revenues was also increased through a state bill. The horsemen have also argued that the track is withholding revenue from purses.
Joseph Faraldo, the attorney representing the horsemen, said that he expected a ruling on the arbitration to be handled in an expeditious manner. A final decision could be reached in three to four months, he said. Attorneys for both sides will likely file papers, although testimony may be taken as well.
Faraldo said the agreement by the raceway to accept binding arbitration, which the horsemen had called for, signals that there is light at the end of the tunnel. He said the horsemen are also seeking special stakes races to compensate local horsemen who had been working at the track for many of the tougher years, before VGMs boosted purses.
Empire Resorts spokesman Charles Degliomini said the company is very pleased with the decision by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.