By Teresa Genaro

The New York State Gaming Commission announced a major new transparency initiative at its May 26 meeting.

As a result of recommendations from the Fan Advisory Council, established in 2011 by the New York State Racing Wagering and Board—the gaming commission’s predecessor—the NYSGC will now publish weekly reports from the New York Racing Association, containing information on claims, rulings, inquiries, objections, injuries, number of starters, pari-mutuel handle, and types of racing. The first report is available at the NYSGC website.

Information in the reports will be compiled by the stewards at the NYRA track currently in operation and the racing division of the NYSGC. The initiative will gradually expand to all racetracks in the state, both harness and Thoroughbred.

The mission of the Fan Advisory Council is to increase Thoroughbred and harness racing’s fan base in the state and to ensure that the opinions of existing fans are heard by the state’s regulatory body and legislators responsible for horse racing in New York.

The need for such reports was highlighted, said Patrick Connors, chair of the council, by the result of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), in which the winner, Bayern, withstood a controversial inquiry.

“Transparency starts with education of the fans about the rules that guide these decisions,” said Michael Amo, a member of the council and co-founder of the advocacy group Thorofan. “Once fans understand these rules and the logic of how they’re applied in any circumstance, we believe confusion about the rules will be minimized.”

The council also reported on NYRA’s response to its 2014 letter about last year’s Belmont Stakes (gr. I), specifically the widely reported difficulties with transportation, food and beverage service, seating, wagering, and Wi-Fi access. Connors expressed satisfaction that the council’s recommendations to NYRA president and chief executive officer Chris Kay were being met.

“We’ve consistently taken the position that the Belmont Stakes is probably the most important day in New York racing,” he said, “because it’s our chance to attract fans to the sport that don’t go on a regular basis.”

Connors also said that in light of recent proposals for renovating and developing Saratoga Race Course, he would like any track that wants to make changes its physical plant to consult with the council to discuss the effects on fans. He said that as prices at NYRA tracks continue to increase, the council hopes NYRA executives will consider “adding value” to customers’ experience, such as free betting or food vouchers.

Earlier in the meeting, NYSGC executive director Rob Williams announced that the commission will hold a meeting this summer at Saratoga to discuss the recommendations of the New York State Task Force on Retired Racehorses. The task force issued a report in 2010, and this summer’s meeting will assess progress on its recommendations.

Not on the agenda was the status of the NYSGC report on the investigation into allegations of cruelty in the barn of Steve Asmussen, made public last year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Commission spokesperson Lee Park said the investigation is complete and going through the re-write process at the staff level.

Park said that while no target date is set for its release, it will be published “as soon as possible.”

A report on the fatalities at Aqueduct Racetrack earlier this year and Saratoga last year is in the process of being completed. Park didn’t offer an estimated time for its completion.