New Budget Bill Would Allow for Night Racing at Belmont

A new executive budget bill introduced by New York state governor Andrew Cuomo Jan. 16 included proposed legislation that would allow the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to conduct night racing at Belmont up to three nights a week. The proposed legislation, which would need legislative approval before the budget is signed into law by the governor before Apr. 30, specifies that the track could race at night Thursday through Saturday, provided that the cards conclude by 10:30 p.m. ET.

While current law only allows racing to be conducted between sunrise and sunset, the New York Senate passed a bill in June 2017 that would allow NYRA to conduct night racing twice a week during Belmont’s spring/summer and fall meets. The bill was not yet voted on by the state Assembly, and any additional legislative activity was deferred to the 2018 session.

Belmont Park was recently chosen as the site for a new arena for the NHL’s New York Islanders that will be situated adjacent to the racetrack.

“We envision night racing as a part of a comprehensive redevelopment of Belmont Park,” said Patrick McKenna, Director of Communications at NYRA. “The Islanders are making preparations to begin construction on a world-class arena that will be part of a sports and entertainment complex to rival any in the country.”

While night racing is unlikely to become a reality in 2018, McKenna said the ultimate goal is to be ready when the time comes.

“This is an important moment, and it certainly marks the progress and momentum behind efforts to allow Thoroughbred racing at night,” McKenna said.

The language of the bill specified that NYRA would be required to coordinate post-times with Yonkers Raceway’s harness racing programs to facilitate an integrated schedule of racing.

In a December TDN Q&A, NYRA CEO Chris Kay said that night racing was an integral component of the development of Belmont Park into a modern day entertainment venue. The advent of nighttime racing, according to Kay, would dovetail perfectly with Islanders’ arrival to the site.

“We would like to see night racing at Belmont, primarily because the sport of horse racing needs to generate new generations of fans, like millennials,” Kay told the TDN‘s T.D. Thornton. “And those folks are working on a Thursday or a Friday afternoon. They like to go out and have a good time; we want to provide them with that opportunity. We want to offer our sport the way baseball offers their sport, at night when people can go.”