Conn. Monkey-Wrenches NYRA Plans to Launch I-Wagering Product

3 May 2007

The New York Racing Association's (NYRA) plans to launch its online wagering product on Wednesday were stymied by protests from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Pursuant to legislation passed in 2006 allowing Internet horserace wagering in the state, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board last week approved plans by the NYRA to take bets over the Internet from gamblers in Connecticut and New York. However, Blumenthal threatened to sue the NYRA for taking Internet wagers from Connecticut where gambling is legal via live and telephone accounts, but not over the Internet.

Internet gambling is banned in the state because of its appeal "to children and compulsive gamblers," he said.

The NYRA announced late Wednesday that it would bar Connecticut residents from registering for the online gambling service, an announcement in which Blumenthal took great pleasure.

"I am absolutely delighted that New York has demonstrated respect for our law," Blumenthal said. "It's great news and a great victory for the public interest."

John Ryan, chief administrative officer with New York Racing Association, said his agency looked at Connecticut law in advance of starting the Web site and plans to discuss it with Connecticut for a clarification to "find out where we missed this."

"Our intention is to abide by the law," Ryan said.

According to an announcement today on the NYRA Web site, only online registration is available for its Internet Wagering program. Registered members will be able to wager online once the product is officially released to the public, which is expected in the next few days.

Meanwhile, New York's six off-track betting corporations (OTBs) have announced tentative plans to apply for Internet wagering licenses.

The presidents of the six OTBs--located in New York City, Suffolk, Nassau, Catskill, Albany and Western New York--met this week in Albany to devise a response to the NYRA's online betting program.

Donald Groth, CEO, Catskill Regional OTB, said that the OTBs have campaigned for many years to have Internet wagering legalized in New York State and have also tried to form an Internet-wagering partnership with NYRA.

"The off-track betting corporations have been dedicated to the position that there should be one statewide Internet wagering option and all should partake of it," Groth said. "Last week the New York Racing and Wagering Board approved the New York Racing Association to offer Internet wagering on its own. The off-track betting corporations had been meeting and have since met to determine that we will be filing an application shortly for an alternate Internet wagering capability operated by the off-track betting corporations."

The six OTBs would jointly operate one Internet site as an alternative to the NYRA's Internet site, which Groth said may not be around for very long.

"We don't know how long the NYRA Internet site will be operational because the NYRA might only be operational a few more months," he said. "The state is very interested in the eventualities that are currently held by the thoroughbred racing franchise. So, I believe whatever approvals they grant would be for the moment."

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.