The Journal News
By Joseph Spector

ALBANY — In a bid to build support for getting full-scale casinos, the state’s nine racetracks released a report Thursday touting the tracks’ economic benefits.

The report from the New York Gaming Association, the tracks’ lobbying arm, uses figures from the state Lottery Division that showed the nine tracks produced nearly $1.3 billion in revenue in 2011.

The report said the tracks had 5,431 full- and part-time employees in 2011. After expenses, the tracks provided to the state $593 million, which is designated for public education, state records showed. The tracks have a proven record “in creating jobs, bolstering funding for education, supporting the racing and breeding industry, and assisting local governments,” said James Featherstonhaugh, the group’s president and an Albany lobbyist and part owner of the Saratoga Race Track.

The study was conducted by Appleseed Inc., a Manhattan firm headed by Hugh O’Neill, a former aide to Govs. Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo. Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported last month that the tracks have been growing. With the addition of video lottery terminals in October at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens, the nine race tracks saw revenue jump nearly 16 percent between 2010 and 2011, state records showed. The tracks are lobbying Gov. Andrew Cuomo to let them expand to add table games.

That would require a constitutional amendment and the earliest it could be legal would be 2014. Cuomo said he supports the legalization of casino gambling, but hasn’t indicated whether he would let the tracks add table games. The video lottery terminals were approved for the tracks in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The tracks employ about 5,400 people but claim that the total jobs created were 17,400 because of spin-off businesses. The report boosts the revenue from the tracks by estimating a full year of activity from Aqueduct.

With a full year of operations at Aqueduct the report estimates that the revenue from the tracks and spin-off businesses would be $1.9 billion a year. About $830 million would fund education, the report said. The report claims that the money for education is the equivalent of 11,900 teacher salaries. The activity at the tracks leads to about 17,000 jobs in the state, including those that support racing and breeding, the report said.