NY Takes $2 Million from Racing Purses for Workers’ Compensation

Liz Carey

New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – Legislators in New York have authorized a $2 million transfer from New York Thoroughbred purse awards to help lower the cost of workers’ compensation insurance for horse trainers who race in that state.

The New York state legislature approved the 2019 budget last week, which included allowing the transfer again this year. The New York Thoroughbred Horeseman’s Association had originally reportedly asked for more than $2.5 million.

The transfers were instituted several years ago to help trainers with skyrocketing workers’ compensation costs. In the past, smaller trainers sending horses to New York were caught in a situation where they were paying the same fees as trainers with multiple barns, according to Blood Horse magazine.

“We’re really trying to create an environment where smaller and midsize outfits have a chance to be stable in New York. By using money from the purse cushion, it defrays their cost,” the magazine quoted Joseph Appelbaum, the NYTHA president, as saying.

According to Applebaum, workers’ compensation insurance in New York has seen decreases over the past two years. He said workers’ compensation fees trainers pay upfront to cover their employees at New York-based tracks has fallen to $1,250 – down by 17 percent.

He said that was a move in the right direction, though slow, adding he’d love to have it lowered by 40 percent but that is not how the business works.

Applebaum told Blood Horse his organization is working with trainers and others to come up with a plan to increase safety at tracks, and reward trainers who run safe operations.

Any plans the NYTHA makes would have to be reviewed first by the New York Gaming Commission.

New York law considers jockeys ‘employees,’ while in other jurisdictions jockeys and those who work in the stalls and other aspects of the horse racing industry are considered contractors.

According to New York law: “A jockey, apprentice jockey, or exercise person performing services for an owner or trainer in connection with the training or racing of a thoroughbred horse at a facility of a racing association or corporation subject to article two or four of the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law and subject to the jurisdiction of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, is regarded as the ‘employee’ of The New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund, Inc. Such individual is also considered the employee of all owners and trainers who are licensed or required to be licensed under article two or four of the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law at the time of any occurrence for which workers’ compensation benefits are payable for such jockey, apprentice jockey or exercise person.”

As such, jockeys are covered by a Jockey Fund paid for by fees assessed to horse trainers operating in the state, and payments from the purse fund.

According to the advocacy group Jockey’s Guild, only New York, California, Maryland and New Jersey offer workers’ compensation for injured riders.

Although an extensive series on the horse industry and workers’ compensation in the Lexington Herald-Leader in 2006 raised an outcry that something must be done, legislation to cover jockeys and other horse industry workers has yet to pass Kentucky’s legislature.

According to the Jockey Club, another jockey advocacy group, the industry saw 1.68 injuries per every 1,000 race starts in 2018. Data for the club is provided by 19 race tracks across the country.

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