Subsidy Sheet: $2.9B NY Govt Subsidies Prop Up Failing Horse Racing Industry

Must-Read Times Union Report Exposes Industry Dependence
on State Largesse


An excellent investigative report by the Times Union’s Emilie Munson explores the state’s massive subsidies for the horse racing industry. This report is thorough, detailed and some of the best investigative journalism we’ve seen on business subsidies.

Some highlights:

  • “Horse racing in New York has been propped up by more than $2.9 billion in state taxpayer dollars and government-directed benefits since 2008.”
  • That’s $2.9 billion is “more than twice the money New York budgeted for the state Department of Agriculture in the same time period, and 13 times what it spent on veterans’ services.”
  • “Despite its large investments in racing, the state has not conducted a study of the jobs produced by horse racing or its economic impact.”

Read the whole thing.

More subsidy stories below.

2. Reinvent Albany called for transparency and major reductions in business subsidies in testimony for the NY legislature’s annual Economic Development hearing:
  • Require Empire State Development to create and maintain a Database of Deals
  • Close the Opportunity Zone loophole
  • Restore the Comptroller’s pre-audit authority in statute
  • Prohibit non-disclosure agreements in economic development deals
  • End $330M a year in state subsidies to the oil and gas industry

Watchdogs also spoke out against the state’s film tax credit, and many advocates are urging the state to invest in early childhood education instead of Tesla.

3. Senators Krueger and Hoylman published an op-ed calling the state to hit pause on the Penn Station redevelopment until a full assessment of the project’s financing is completed. Under Governor Hochul’s proposal, Vornado Realty Trust would be able to build ten tax-free towers, roughly a new Hudson Yards a few blocks from Hudson Yards.

The state has not released an economic analysis of how much the new development would yield in taxes to support Penn Station, which is all the more concerning since COVID put the market for commercial office space into the basement. The commercial vacancy rate in Midtown is currently hovering around 19%. … ESD may borrow upwards of $5.7 billion based on potential Vornado development revenue, requiring upwards of $330 million a year in bond payments. What happens if the expected rents from the project don’t materialize? Will taxpayers still be on the hook?

4. Rod Watson writes in an op-ed that Buffalo’s leaders have succumbed to “Stockholm syndrome” in the state’s negotiations over a new Buffalo Bills stadium. A new stadium is estimated to cost $1.4 billion, and reports suggest that taxpayers may have to foot up to three quarters of the bill. (The state’s own study estimates the Bills operation will create under $30 million a year in tax revenue.)

The current plan calls for a roughly $1.4 billion new stadium next to the existing one in Orchard Park, with taxpayers expected to pick up nearly three-quarters of the tab while getting virtually nothing in return except the psychological boost that comes with being dubbed “major league.”

If you got this from a friend, sign up here. Subsidy Sheet is written by Tom Speaker, Policy Analyst at Reinvent Albany. Please send questions and tips to tom [at] We look forward to hearing from you!