Last week, I presented the first of our Belmont Task Force 2007 Statement of Principles relating them to an Indian Nation Casino at Belmont Park rather than a state sponsored VLT Racino. Again, my hope is you will see the fundamental issues of fairness contained in each principle. Kindly allow me to present our second principle:
PRESERVE AND PROTECT RACING AND OUR COMMUNITIES ALIKE II. The neighboring communities support the preservation and fostering of the world class premier thoroughbred racing facilities within their neighborhood. The communities encourage the protection and incorporation of all buildings and landscaped features of historic, architectural or cultural significance into the local communities visioning, economic or historic planning.
It was the intention of the Task Force to have principles which could be applied and embraced by all three NYRA facilities; Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga. The Saratoga community had previously demanded that such an inventory be done, and the references to historical planning are in recognition of that sentiment. We also wanted representatives of NYRA to support the concepts outlined in the Statement of Principles. At Floral Park’s Public Hearing, which NYRA President Charles Hayward attended and spoke, he expressed NYRA’s support of the Statement of Principles without any reservations.
Belmont Park is, and must remain, a premier thoroughbred racing facility. It has always been and must always remain a thoroughbred racing facility where legalized gambling takes place, rather than a legalized gambling facility where thoroughbred racing takes place. We must never allow gaming interests to command the activity of this state property. The Shinnecock, a sovereign Indian Nation, cannot be provided management oversight of the operations at Belmont Park. Were that to happen then the gaming cart would surely be put before the horse!
We have specifically acknowledged and want to incorporate the visioning and economic planning which the Elmont community has worked so diligently to develop over the years. We are mindful, however, that the unchecked development at Belmont Park could result in the decline of the surrounding neighboring business areas, rather than the expansion and improvement of those neighboring business areas. For example, having a supermarket just a few blocks away from the entrance to a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year gambling facility could lead to an adverse impact on the local area and cause potential customers to seek much less congested shopping area alternatives. There may also be direct competition for the entertainment dollars of the surrounding community. Will local residents still pay to see the Broad Hollow Theatre productions at the Elmont Library when they could go enjoy world-class entertainment at Belmont Park for free? Will local businesses, restaurants, clothing and jewelry stores, realize dwindling receipts as customers are enticed to spend entertainment dollars at the gaming tables and slots lured by inexpensive casino subsidized dining options and no state sales tax on goods purchased within the boundaries of the sovereign Indian Nation? This is an unfair advantage and far from a level playing field. For generations, Belmont Park and thoroughbred racing has been an economic engine that defines and unites our communities. We cannot allow that historic legacy to be usurped.