New York ushers in a new era in betting on horse racing today when Aqueduct Race Track and Offtrack Betting parlors across the state take bets on seven live races at Aqueduct plus five that are to be televised from Gulfstream Park in Florida, 1,100 miles away.
The format was approved last month by the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo as the alternative to closing down winter racing in New York for perhaps six weeks.
A new law was required because simulcast betting on "imported" races had been limited to 50 races a year under an earlier law adopted to protect live racing. Winter weather and a growing shortage of race horses have posed new threats to live racing and the tax money it generates, so the state agreed to loosen its policy on importing races for simulcast betting.
"It's a new dimension," said Gerard J. McKeon, president of the New York Racing Association. "It's the first time I can ever remember people here were looking forward to January."
McKeon also said that winter weather cost racing in New York something like $10 million last year because parts of 11 programs were canceled, and he added: "We expect to make $1.3 million more between now and the end of March, so we may lose only $8.7 million. But think of the alternatives -- like closing."