One of the most historic horse racing facilities in the United States of America is the Saratoga Racecourse. It opened its doors on 3 August 1863, and was also mentioned by James Bond author, Ian Fleming, in his novel Diamonds Are Forever. Its fame and popularity has lasted for decades, and is home to Grade 1 racing events such as the Alabama Stakes, Travers Stakes, Woodward Stakes and the Whitney Handicap. Even with all its flair and history, the Saratoga Racecourse still finds itself under threat, and those who have great affection for the sport of horse racing and the course are fighting for its survival.
The installation of Video Lottery Terminals, or VLTs, at New York State Racecourses has been a topic of discussion for many years. Most racecourses have installed VLTs to boost their income, and have been successful by following this course of action. Horsemen have had their hopes pinned on the approval of AEG as a VLT operator, but to their dismay Governor Paterson has turned the proposal down, leaving the future of horse racing in New York State hanging in the balance, as well as the future of Saratoga Racecourse. On average, other racecourses are able to offer total purse amounts for a day of racing of $1 million, as opposed to the $700 000 that Saratoga can offer at present. This leads to trainers and horse owners attending racing events in other states, where purse amounts are higher. With no VLTs in sight for the New York state, supporters and members in the horse racing industry are concerned about what lies ahead for the Saratoga Racecourse.
Not only is the long term future of Saratoga Racecourse in jeopardy, but the upcoming season also seems to be uncertain. With no reliable income to budget for and the set back of New York OTB declaring bankruptcy, no answers are forthcoming in regard to how the bills will be paid and the continuance horse racing in New York State. It is hoped that with horsemen and horse racing enthusiasts raising their concern about the sport to the government, their position on VLTs will be looked at again, and some hope for Saratoga will come to light.