Keeping gambling fair

Gambling, betting on horse races and holding charitable gaming events seems like all fun and games, but there is a core group of individuals who ensure it remains that way. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board, formed by Gov. Rockefeller in 1973, plays an important role behind the scenes of one of America, and the region's, favorite pasttimes.

We regulate paramutual gaming (which includes the thoroughbred and harness tracks at Saratoga Race Course), travel gaming and charitable gaming around the state. We ensure that when people have a license to conduct any form of gambling in New York, the conduct of that gambling is done in the manner that would guarantee the consumer isn't fooled, either in a way that races or games are fixed or that the money trail is one we can verify, said John Sabini, chairman of the board and the state's top regulator.

Sabini, appointed by Gov. David Paterson in 2008, heads up the three member board. He said the board has a staff of auditors, investigators, horseracing experts and lawyers who make sure that things are all on "the up and up."

"For example, we have personnel at Saratoga Race Course and Saratoga Raceway [and other casinos in the region] as well as people who determine whether or not games are operated properly, and people at charitable places like VFW halls and moose lodges, churches and synagogues," said Sabini, who was previously the senior minority member in the state Senate and part of the senate committee on racing, wagering and gaming.

When the board was formed into state law nearly 40 decades ago, it was done so to fulfill a role the government felt explicitly crucial to the state's growing gaming climate, which itself was beginning to play a role in the economy. That role is perhaps even more important today, and Sabini said the importance of his job and the entire board is evident by NYRA's financial woes earlier this year.

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