Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to invest $455 million in the Belmont Park racetrack on Long Island has sparked controversy over the future of horse racing in Queens. Critics argue that the state should not be investing in a dying industry and should not be subsidizing it. The state has already subsidized the horse racing industry to the tune of nearly $3 billion since 2008, yet attendance has dropped off sharply.
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat, has criticized the plan, saying that 15 years and $2.9 billion later, the New York Racing Association is still not able to hold its own and keeps coming back to the state looking for another handout. Attendance at Belmont Park has fallen by 88% over the past four decades, and some activists have raised concerns about how the horses are treated, arguing that the racing regiment is cruel for the animals.
However, supporters of the plan say that the overhaul would make Belmont Park a destination with new shops and restaurants to lure bettors. Governor Hochul argues that abandoning horse racing at the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens is necessary to revitalize the industry, and local leaders are open to the idea if neighboring Resorts World Casino can expand its footprint with table games and more.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, a Queens Democrat and the chair of the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee in the state Senate, believes that there is still a place for Belmont Park, given the socialization factor and the population that still likes to get out and go, rather than relying on electronic or mobile devices.
The controversy over Hochul’s plan highlights the challenges facing the horse racing industry in New York and the need for greater investment in alternative forms of entertainment and economic development. While some argue that horse racing is a part of New York’s cultural heritage, others believe that the industry is in decline and that resources should be directed elsewhere.
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