New York’s Horse Racing Bailouts and Subsidies Must End

horse racing image


Billions in Subsidies

Could New York’s Horse Racing Bailouts and Subsidies Be the Largest Corporate Welfare Boondoggle in State History?

Every year, more than $230 million in casino revenue is used to prop up the horse racing industry. Residents of New York State should be the recipients of these casino profits, not the 11 privately owned Thoroughbred and harness tracks.

Millions of private businesses in the state operate entirely without subsidies. Why does horse racing receive this corporate welfare?

Few New Yorkers ever see the inside of a racetrack. Attendance at races has been in continual decline for decades—with no probability of recovery. Except for the brief Saratoga season and the Belmont Stakes week, grandstands are virtually empty. Aqueduct Racetrack once averaged 31,000 patrons on a typical race day, but by 2018, it was down to 2,100—a 92% decline. Yonkers Raceway formerly averaged 25,000, but 2018 reports show just 90 fans per race date—a 99% decrease. The declines were so significant that in 2019, the New York State Gaming Commission’s annual reports stopped including harness track attendance.

A 2021 Marist Poll survey revealed that 91% of New Yorkers have no plans to visit a New York state racetrack and bet on horse racing, 5% plan to go once, and 1% plan to go twice. Going to a New York state racetrack once or twice in a year when there are 1,200 race days annually effectively rounds to zero.

In addition to the subsidies, the tracks and racehorse owners receive enormous tax breaks and other benefits:

  • Sales tax exemptions for the purchase of racehorses
  • Use tax exemptions for racehorses
  • Shared marketing budgets with casinos
  • Free rent from New York Racing Association tracks
  • New York state loses millions in rental income by offering free rent to the New York Racing Association on state-owned tracks: Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park, and Aqueduct Racetrack.

It’s time to stop throwing good money after bad. Wealthy owners, breeders, and celebrity trainers should fund their own private breeding investments and gaming ventures.

2019 Video Lottery Terminal Profits Directed to Horse Racing

As racing has declined—with diminished attendance, repeated criminal scandals, and horse deaths—the subsidies have nonetheless dramatically increased.

A 2021 Marist Poll survey found that 83% of New York state residents would prefer to direct these casino profits to essential public services.

2021 Marist Poll

Almost No Tax Revenue

Horse Racing Provides No Meaningful Tax Revenue for New York State as Originally Intended

New York’s 11 Thoroughbred and harness racing tracks have received nearly $3 billion—without any real return to the state. Unlike the $9 billion that New York’s lottery and casinos make annually for the state, horse racing provides New York with no tax revenue. These ongoing state appropriations, casino payments, and sweetheart lease deals should have led to financial self-sufficiency long ago.

$245M to Racing
$15M From Racing
Net Revenue to NYS

Jobs and Economic Impact Claims

Racing Claims That It Creates Thousands of Jobs and Substantial Economic Impact

More than 2 million businesses in New York state create 8 million jobs and more than $1 trillion in economic impact  without casino subsidies.

Woman writing
chef in kitchen
doctors operating
construction worker

Why do casino subsidies support private racing businesses rather than more essential industries and services?

The racing industry claims that it provides jobs and income. But the majority of jobs cited by racing lobbyists are part-time and low-paying, and wage theft is a regular occurrence. In the words of former New York State Deputy Secretary for Gaming and Racing Bennett Liebman, “We may not know how many jobs [racing] has produced, but it is certainly nowhere near the levels that the surveys authored on behalf of the industry have indicated.”

Deaths, Drugging, and Slaughter

State-Sponsored Cruelty to Animals

jockey on a horse
  • Deaths

    Because of the way racehorses are bred (for speed), when they are first put to work (long before their bodies are mature), and how often they’re raced, racing can never be entirely safe for them. In 2021 alone, at least 105 horses died at New York tracks, and since 2009, more than 1,600 horses have died there.
  • Illegal Doping

    The racing industry is charged with policing its own tracks, yet the most egregious crimes have been uncovered by independent attorney general investigations and, most recently, by the FBI. In 2021, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged 27 trainers, veterinarians, and their co-conspirators with illicit drugging, mislabeling of pharmaceuticals, and sales and use of prohibited substances. Unfortunately, when New York gaming rule infractions occur, including drugging cases that affect the integrity of race results, only the most insignificant penalties and fines are assessed under state administrative hearings.
  • Confinement and Isolation

    Most horses are kept locked—alone—in cramped stalls for as many as 23 hours a day, making a heartrending mockery of the industry claim that horses “love to run.” Inflicting this cruelty on horses is especially harsh because they are naturally social herd animals. The vast majority of active racehorses suffer from stress-induced ulcers.
  • Slaughter

    Horses discarded by the racing industry are frequently auctioned off to “kill buyers” who truck them to Canadian slaughterhouses. They may endure days of transport without access to water or food or be painfully injured in cramped trailers before being barbarically killed. The Thoroughbred racing industry sends an estimated 10,000 horses to slaughter annually, meaning that half of the 20,000 foals born each year will eventually be killed for their flesh.
  • Whipping

    Horse racing is the only activity in which beating an animal to compel speed is legal. While it may not be prosecuted, it is cruelty under the law.

What You Can Do

How Can I Help?

A senate bill (introduced by Sen. Robert Jackson) and an assembly bill (introduced by Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal) would redirect the $230 million in annual subsidies to education.

A senate bill (introduced by Sen. Julia Salazar) and an assembly bill (introduced by Rosenthal) would end use tax exemptions for racehorses.

A diverse group of organizations—including New York Communities for Change, the Alliance for Quality Education, the Human Services Council, LiveOn NY, the Worker Justice Center of New York, Horseracing Wrongs, New York State Humane Association, PETA, and New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets—support the bills.

If you live in New York state, please call or write to your state legislators and ask them end corporate welfare for horse racing in New York.

Personalized phone calls carry more weight with decisionmakers, but feel free to draw ideas from our sample script below:

[To assemblymembers and senators:] As your constituent, I urge you to end corporate welfare for horse racing in New York. I also urge you to curb unnecessary subsidies and perks that go to the horse racing industry and disproportionately benefit wealthy owners and breeders. Can I count on your support?

Member Organizations