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Belmont workers rally for video gambling

Fresh off the collapse of a state deal to bring video gambling to the Aqueduct Race Track, hundreds of people from Queens and Nassau whose livelihoods depend on racing rallied Sunday, warning that Albany's inaction is jeopardizing their jobs.

Breeders, trainers, politicians and their families - waving placards like "Take the Blinders off Our Jobs" and "Very Long Time" - stood outside on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Belmont Race Track in Elmont. They said they are worried about a "bleak future" for the industry's 35,000 jobs statewide.

"Let's save the industry from dying!" Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, said to cheers and applause.

The lack of the video lottery terminals has helped drive star horses to race in other states for larger purses, said Rick Violette, the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

"Our employees - the trainers, their families - we are also the ones that go to the dry cleaners, that go to Waldbaum's, that go to the Shell station to fill up the gas," he said. "This is more important than just the horse racing industry."

Last week, Gov. David A. Paterson said the state would pick a new racino operator this spring for Aqueduct. Earlier this month, Sens. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) and Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) urged the state to consider placing the lottery terminals in Belmont. A recent deal for video gambling, including Aqueduct Entertainment Group, imploded several weeks ago after state lottery officials rejected some of AEG's investors.

"The important thing is that we get this thing going," Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano told an electrician who had come to the rally.

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