New York Gaming Commission To Hold Hearing Over Asmussen's Payroll Practices; Threatens To Revoke His License

Steve Asmussen | Sarah Andrew


The New York Gaming Commission will hold a hearing Sept. 18 to look into whether or not Steve Asmussen's owner-trainer license should be revoked, the board said via a press release on Thursday.

Asmussen has been accused on a number of occasions of violating federal labor laws by failing to pay his workforce overtime. Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Labor obtained a court order requiring Asmussen to pay $243,260 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages (for a total of $486,520) after its investigation found that his allegedly illegal pay practices denied 163 grooms and hotwalkers at Churchill Downs and Keeneland of overtime wages.

When reached for comment, Asmussen attorney Clark Brewster told the Thoroughbred Daily News that, “We welcome the opportunity to provide transparency and frank discussion to the Gaming Commission regarding federal agency actions that have impacted so many trainers in this industry. Steve has always paid at the top of the scale for all backside workers. The issue has never been the actual pay workers received, but has focused on rules relating to record keeping.”

In the Notice of Hearing issued Thursday by the New York Gaming Commission, regulators laid out the issues they will look into to determine whether or not Asmussen's license should be revoked. They are:

1) Asmussen's financial responsibility, experience, character and general fitness and whether they are such that his participation in racing would be inconsistent with the public interest, convenience or necessity and with the best interests of racing generally in conformity with the purposes of Article II of the Racing Law.

2) Whether or not Asmussen is financially irresponsible.

3) Whether or not Asmussen has been guilty of or attempted any fraud or misrepresentation in connection with racing or otherwise or has been guilty of or engaged in similar, related or like practices.

4) Whether or not Asmussen has violated or attempted to violate any law with respect to racing in any jurisdiction or has been guilty of or engaged in similar, related or like practices.

5) Whether or not Asmussen has engaged in one or more improper, corrupt or fraudulent acts or practices in relation to racing or has conspired with any other person to commit or have assisted in the commission of any such act or practice; and/or that revocation of Respondent's license is necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare.

The hearing will be held before a hearing officer assigned to the case by the Gaming Commission. Asmussen will have the right to appeal any decisions made by the Gaming Commission to the court system.

When it was announced that the U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a court order requiring Asmussen to pay the $486,520 it said he owed employees, it was determined that Asmussen failed to pay non-exempt employees the additional half-time owed based on their regular rates of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek.

“More than 160 grooms and hotwalkers whose work enables Asmussen Racing Stables to be successful will soon have the opportunity to recover the back wages they're owed and liquidated damages they deserve from an employer that mistakenly thought they could win without playing by the rules,” said Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard.

While Asmussen has had persistent problems with the Department of Labor, this is first time that any gaming or racing commission has looked into the matter and threatened revocation of Asmussen's license.

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