Ahead of an Economic Development hearing in the NYS Legislature today, I submitted the following written testimony on the Belmont Park proposal:
To call the proposed $455 million loan to the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to rebuild Belmont Park a boondoggle would be understating it. First, this massive loan would be repaid through the millions in annual subsidies NYRA is already being gifted. (Over the past decade, NYRA has received well over a billion dollars in state support.) Second, NYRA’s current franchise agreement – on which, by the way, they pay zero in annual fees – expires in ten years. That, coupled with horseracing’s steady decline nationally – the industry has suffered a net loss of 39 tracks since 2000; all relevant metrics (handle, “foal crop,” races, etc.) are significantly down – makes it perfectly reasonable to ask, will NYRA even exist in 30 years, especially considering Belmont’s attendance has plummeted 87% since 1978? If not, what becomes of the debt?
More important to us at Horseracing Wrongs, however, is the cost of all this in lives. In the 14-year period 2009-2022, 854 horses died at Belmont/Aqueduct (the proposal has Belmont absorbing all of Aqueduct’s current racing) – an average of 61 kills per year. This means we can reasonably expect another 1,800 or so horses to perish at the new Belmont over the life of this loan (30 years). Hundreds and hundreds more beautiful, intelligent, sensitive beings sacrificed for $2 bets. And this says nothing of the likely thousands more who will be shipped to slaughter upon “retirement.”
Beyond – or more accurately, prior to – death, there is the everyday track abuse: The typical racehorse is torn from his mother as a mere babe, thrust into intensive training at 18 months – long before his body is fully mature – and first raced at two, the rough equivalent of a first-grader. From there, the incessant grinding – again, on an unformed skeleton – begins, because if he’s not racing, he’s not earning. He is confined (alone, in a tiny 12×12 stall for over 23 hours a day), commodified (lip tattoos, auctions, “claiming races”), controlled (cribbing collars, lip chains, tongue ties, eye blinders, mouth bits), and cowed (whips). Bought and sold multiple times over the course of his “career,” he lives a stressful, tenuous existence that in and of itself causes pain: over 90% of active racehorses suffer from chronic ulcers.
In short, at its core, horseracing is animal exploitation, animal cruelty, and animal killing. And it is high time that we, the taxpayers, stop subsidizing it. Please reject this latest money grab by NYRA. Say no to the loan, and yes to compassion. Thank you.
President, Horseracing Wrongs