Funke bill would cover a year of funding and allow for studying del Lago's impact on the Farmington venue
FARMINGTON — A proposed bill would help keep horse racing going in the Finger Lakes.
The governor's office has been meeting with all parties involved to find a solution, so that Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington can finally start the racing season.
With the schedule still up in the air, employees and affected businesses in the area say they need all the help they can get.
"I noticed in the last year, I heard that the purses were less so they had trouble filling races," said Kristina Budd.
As a horse groomer, Budd worries about the fate of the Farmington venue. The date for the start of this upcoming season is still unannounced.
Jockeys and Finger Lakes officials are still concerned about competing with del Lago Resort and Casino, which opened last week in the Seneca County town of Tyre, just 27 miles from FLGR. Unlike the Farmington venue or Batavia Downs in Genesee County, del Lago offers table games as well as slots.
"If there's less people going to Finger Lakes to gamble, obviously that money down is going to hurt the horsemen," said Budd, "so any money would help."
State Senator Rich Funke, R-Perinton — whose district includes several towns in Ontario and Monroe counties — wants New York to give $3 million to save the racetrack, "to ensure neither Finger Lakes nor the new casino are punished under state law and are each able to protect the thousands of jobs they employ."
In his bill, Funke says the $3 million would cover a year of funding and allow leaders to study the real impact of del Lago on Finger Lakes' revenues.
"The original legislation for allowing commercial casinos back in 2013 did provide protections for race tracks in the same gaming region for their purse accounts," says Steve Martin, senior director of marketing with Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack. "We are not technically in the same gaming region as del Lago, so there are no protections in place."
Race track staff continue work for the start of this year's season. Budd meanwhile hopes for some help from Albany.
"Help us when we've been here longer," says Budd. "This is a historical landmark ... and you're saving all these people's jobs."
Now, people are asking if this bill becomes law, where the $3 million would come from.
According to Funke's office, this is under direct state appropriation, meaning it will have to be done in consolation with the governor's office. Del Lago had no comment.