Faraldo calls BS on Yonkers cancellation

The president of the SOA of New York said new Yonkers Raceway management MGM Resorts was testing the waters by cancelling and blamed the state’s Gaming Commission for not punishing track owners that don’t race when programmed without proper justification.

by Dave Briggs

Joe Faraldo calls the cancellation of Saturday’s Yonkers Raceway’s card “absolutely disgraceful” and places much of the blame on the New York State Gaming Commission for not punishing racetracks for making unilateral decisions to cancel without justification.

Yonkers announced the decision to cancel before 7:30 a.m. Saturday and said the reason live racing and simulcasting was cancelled was “due to the weather.” It is the fourth cancellation of live racing at Yonkers in 2019. The casino at the track remained open and live racing went ahead without a hitch at the Meadowlands across the Hudson River.

Saturday evening in New York, Faraldo, the president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York (SOA of NY), reported the temperature was 40 degrees in the city.

“The sun came out today. Most of the snow is gone. The roads are passable,” Faraldo said. “There’s no concern about the welfare and safety of people shipping horses from New Jersey. At Freehold they didn’t have any snow. Upstate, they tell me they don’t have anything up there. This was a call that was made at 7:23 a.m. to cancel racing.”

Faraldo said he believes Yonkers Raceway’s new management, MGM Resorts, was “testing the waters” by cancelling because the Gaming Commission in recent years has not punished other track owners in the state for canceling without justification.

“About seven years ago – or within that time period – there was a track operator, my dear good friend at Vernon (Jeff Gural), that cancelled the last two weeks of awarded race days. He was fined a sum of $20,000, which I thought was way too little for doing that. Two years ago, he decided, unilaterally, he was not going to open the first two weeks of the week at Vernon. He has not been either fined or suspended for failing to honor his obligation to respect the race dates that were awarded to him and without any regard for the consequences to the horsemen,” Faraldo said.

“The Gaming Commission, over the last two years, has been threatening to do something to him, but never does a thing. Now, if I was MGM Grand, I would decide to see how much I could get away with. I think that’s what we saw today, a testing of the waters by new management. MGM worldwide organization just a week or 10 days ago – I’m not 100 per cent sure — has issued, basically, an edict that they must cut costs (full press release here). Today was the first evidence of that kind of mentality on the racing side. If they think they can get away with it, they’re going to try. It’s that simple.”

Faraldo said he was “very concerned” about Saturday’s Yonkers cancellation, but does not expect it to be precedent setting, particularly since he hopes to put pressure on the Gaming Commission to develop a protocol for dealing with unreasonable cancellations in the future.

“I think I am correct in leveling the criticism at the Gaming Commission, because I think they are, in part, responsible for this kind of attitude. If one of my horsemen violated some rule or regulation that was an obligation imposed upon them — for example, coming to the paddock with poor or improper equipment or equipment not sufficient to avoid the risk of a horse or driver getting hurt in a race — that person gets penalized. Now, if you have an obligation to maintain 234 race dates that you applied for, and you don’t fulfill your obligation, how do you escape scot-free?

“The prior New York State Racing and Wagering Board, years ago meted out a $20,000 penalty for similar conduct. Two years ago, this Gaming Commission did nothing. When they wanted to morph from a racing commission to a gaming commission, I opposed that. People said, ‘How can you oppose it? You don’t like the racing board.’ I said, ‘But at least the racing board has more people with expertise that are concerned about one issue — racing and the terms and conditions under which racing is to be conducted. Once you morph into a gaming commission, racing is all the way in the back and gaming becomes paramount and that’s not good for this industry. But, nobody listens to Uncle Joe.”

Faraldo said cancelling the first Saturday of the month showed ignorance on MGM Resorts’ part.

“On the first of every month, everyone’s handle goes up because people get their checks — social security, welfare, whatever. They get some subsidy checks on the first of the month,” Faraldo said. “Your handle is always higher. It’s not a function of how you conduct your business, it’s just a function of the accident of the economics of money getting into somebody’s pocket who wants to bet. (Friday) night we bet $948,000 (at Yonkers), which is above what we normally bet. We concluded our card at 10:36 at night, so we didn’t drag people out to try to capture the west coast money or anything else. It was a relatively early night and we had a good night. So, if you were picking a night (to cancel), the stupidity of picking a Saturday night when it’s that close to the first of the month is an extreme example, to me, of the lack of any understanding about how to conduct this business.”

Faraldo said he is hoping the Gaming Commission will set up a protocol to address cancellations in the future. In no way should the SOA of New York dictate terms of the protocol, Faraldo said, but, if asked, the association would be happy to be involved in the decisions to cancel.

“Maybe a solution here, which I would advocate, is if any racetrack operator — I don’t care who it is — decides unilaterally and without justification or a fact-based decision to cancel racing and they have a casino or racino, they should be required to shut (the casino) down at the same time,” Faraldo said.

“I want a dialogue started because I do not want to see this happen under any circumstances again. This is just wrong and I haven’t found anybody, yet, who disagrees with me — except, maybe, the Gaming Commission. I don’t know.”