Lawmakers in New York are taking a crack at ending subsidies for the NY horse racing industry. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Bill A0162 would end more than $230 million in yearly state subsidies for the industry.
The money is used to boost purses, provide jockey health insurance, and other initiatives at the state’s three race tracks. That money would then go to the state’s education system.
The bill has the backing of animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Rosenthal offered her reasoning for the bill via a PETA press release:
“The industry pockets the money to enhance purses and often abuses and neglects the horses in its care, while workers toil at low-wage jobs. We must stop subsidizing this cruel business and instead reinvest the funds where they’re needed most—in public education, our human services sector, community redevelopment, and wage theft prevention.”
Rosenthal tried ending the subsidies in 2022, too.
Lawmaker says the new bill is part of state’s ‘evolving values’
Rosenthal’s bill is meant to address the state’s changing values. Whereas funding the horse racing industry may have been acceptable a decade ago, that’s no longer the case for the bill’s advocates.
“My legislation is a statement of New York’s evolving values,” Rosenthal said, “and I look forward to working with the diverse and growing coalition of advocates to see it become law.”
PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo characterized the state subsidies as “throwing good money after bad” in an interview with local media. She said that the state shouldn’t subsidize the NY horse racing industry “at the expense of public schools.”
It’s important to note that the subsidies were not taken from schools and given to horse racing. Rather, lawmakers are calling for the funds to go to schools instead of horse racing.
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal’s low-wage claim holds up
One of the assemblywoman’s claims is that wages in the NY horse racing industry are too low. The average NY horse racing employee earns $42,652 a year. That works out to around $20.51 an hour, according to the latest data from ZipRecruiter.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) living wage calculator indicates that a liveable wage for a New York City resident is $25.42 with no children and $43.18 with one child. MIT defines a living wage as, ” the hourly rate that an individual in a household must earn to support his or herself and their family.”
Based on that data, Rosenthal’s claim that workers are toiling away at low-wage jobs is accurate.
How will cuts affect NY horse racing workers and jockeys?
Rosenthal’s call to end subsidies begs the question: If wages are low, why would lawmakers cut funding to the industry? Losing millions of dollars each year could result in pay cuts for certain employees.
Furthermore, one has to wonder how the cuts will affect jockeys. Some of the state subsidies fund jockey health insurance. Cutting that money could impact monthly premiums, coverage options, and overall expenses.