Talk about a bad scratch.
A retiree from Middle Village who loves spending time at Aqueduct and Belmont has been banned from the racetracks because, he alleges, he’s a whistleblower who has called out the New York Racing Association in several areas where it has come up short.
John Stalzer, a retired law enforcement officer, is hoping to get the situation resolved in time to see the Belmont Stakes on June 8. And he’s got state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a member of the Racing, Gaming & Wagering Committee, trying to work the inside rail to get him allowed back to the tracks.
The trouble began in late 2011, Stalzer said, when he made three complaints to NYRA, as well as Addabbo, who then wrote to the association about them.
First, Stalzer realized the tracks were not paying out as much as they should under the law to the winners of “exotic wagers,” bets involving three or more horses, such as trifectas. NYRA acknowledged it had erred.
Second, Stalzer, who has a handicapped parking permit, complained about how handicapped parking spaces at Belmont were not those nearest to the track. NYRA responded by saying the parking is “in close proximity” to the clubhouse, and that security personnel are available to help patrons.
Third, Stalzer, a member of the Players Club — which requires total betting of at least $150,000 a year — complained that too many nonmembers were getting into the club’s exclusive area. NYRA said in response that they were guests of members, but acknowledged overcrowding and said it would evaluate the situation.
Shortly afterward, Gov. Cuomo fired the head of NYRA over the payout issue.
Stalzer contacted the office of the new administrator to try and set up a meeting to resolve the other issues, but after lengthy back and forth with the staff, he said, the office reneged and said there would be no meeting.
And, he claimed, a NYRA employee shortly afterward told him he should “shut his f---ing mouth and stop causing trouble.”
“Their attitude is they can do what they want,” Stalzer said.
His relations with NYRA deteriorated further until, he says, on April 10 at Belmont he was handed a notice barring him from the tracks under penalty of being arrested for trespassing. He said he did nothing to warrant being kicked out and that the association is just retaliating against him.
“I’ve been going to the racetrack for 40 years and I never had a problem,” he said.
Officials with NYRA, including its president and its spokeswoman, declined to respond to messages seeking comment.
But Addabbo said he’s pursuing the matter with the association.
“Because he spoke out, he was banned from going to Aqueduct and Belmont, and I disagree with that,” the senator said. “I see it more as a personal issue against John, and I have a problem with that.”
Addabbo said that now that he’s back in the district, he can work on getting the trespass order lifted, and he said he’ll try to get it done before the big race.
“NYRA has a personnel image to improve, some business practices to improve,” he said, “so this isn’t a high priority for them, but for me it is, for my constituent it is.”