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NYRA gets Governor's backing to keep the horse racing tracks

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is backing the the New York Racing Association (NYRA) with a 30-year extension plan.

NYRA gets Governor's backing to keep the horse racing tracks The contract to operate the three New York horse racing tracks is set to expire the end of this year, but the race for the lucrative contract has been on for a few years already. Yesterday Gov. Eliot Spitzer said that the racetracks should remain in the hands of the NYRA, which has run the three thoroughbred racetracks (Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct) in the state since 1955.

 "Thoroughbred racing is a vital state industry, providing tens of thousands of jobs to breeders, horsemen and workers who are directly employed at New York's three thoroughbred tracks. Following my investigations a few years ago, a new leadership team at NYRA has turned the organization around to the point where it is demonstrating real results and true transparency. The strong performance of racing this season is a testament to how far NYRA has come in the last few years and this agreement ensures that racing in New York State will be operated by experienced management. After careful consideration, I concluded that a reconstituted NYRA is the best entity to operate thoroughbred racing in New York State. The state, in consultation with NYRA, will choose an experienced gaming operator to operate the VLT franchise at Aqueduct. This will ensure that we have the best possible operator for both the racing and the gaming franchise," Gov. Eliot Spitzer was quoted yesterday.

 Gov. Eliot Spitzer has submitted a proposal for the Legislature's approval, which would extend the rights to operate the racetracks to NYRA for another 30 years. The governor's plan also asks for a new entity to manage the 4,500 video lottery terminals recently approved for the Aqueduct, and that a major overhaul of the management structure of the NYRA should take place, but the state would contribute $75 million to help out NYRA, which is currently in bankruptcy proceedings, and would forfeit further debt with the state. In exchange, the New York Racing Association would give up claims to the land on which the three racetracks are built and it would reduce the board of trustees from 28 members to 19. Two of those members would be appointed by the governor and one each named by Sheldon Silver, the State Assembly speaker, and Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno.

 The State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has expressed support for the governor's plan, Joseph Bruno, however, has criticized Mr. Spitzer for ignoring recommendations by a committee to give the contract to another bidder - Excelsior Racing Associates. Two other bidders for the contract, Capital Play and Empire Racing Associates, have said they would ask the Legislature to sat Mr. Spitzer's plan aside.

 According to watchdogs, total of $2.2 million has been spent by the bidders in lobbying in the past two years alone.

Published on 09/05/2007

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