According to a coalition of Saratoga Springs racing, political and business interests, the New York Racing Association’s reprivatization options presented in a plan to Governor Andrew Cuomo have been set aside. In their place is an outline that cedes control of NYRA to the state via an executive board stacked with public appointees, and financial and operational controls spread around the state’s bureaucracy.
What was. What is.
In 2012, irregularities in takeouts of exotic wagers were the tipping point that brought NYRA into a forced partnership with the state; the governor and legislators enacted the New York State Racing Franchise Accountability and Transparency Act of 2012. Originally scheduled to return to private ownership in 2015, NYRA produced a plan the governor elected not to pursue, and instead, extended state control for one year.
Earlier this year, NYRA submitted a reorganization plan with three options for going forward:
- An option where the board of directors was made up of private sector members
- An option where there were four publicly appointed members of the board of directors
- An option to extend the current status of NYRA for another year
In Albany, nary a peep has been said on the record about the proposed reprivatization plans. Queries to legislators in both houses confirmed they had not been apprised of the Cuomo version.
However, the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing has been monitoring the matter. It maintains that Cuomo is seeking to hold public control of NYRA and raid NYRA’s legally designated coffers to boost the general fund.
In a statement from the Concerned Citizens, released over the signature of Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, the leadership group made its position clear:
We are vehemently opposed to the transfer of funds legally designated via prior agreements to support our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund. This change ignores the fact that New York State was given $1 billion in real estate at NYRA’s three tracks in return for the granting of a 25-year franchise agreement and a legislatively-approved revenue sharing formula from the VLT at Aqueduct. The VLT revenues are like mortgage payments for the land.
The Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing has been able to parse out these points of the Executive Chamber’s reorganization plan:
The Governor’s proposal will:
- Allow the Governor to appoint one-third of the members to the new NYRA board of directors or 5 of the 15 members;
- With one member also appointed by the Senate and Assembly, there would be at least 7 of the 15 members appointed directly by our state government;
- The Governor would also appoint the new Chair of the board of directors;
- Transfer VLT funds away from NYRA that were previously designed for Capital improvements at Belmont, Aqueduct and the Saratoga Race Course as well as funds for NYRA operations;
- Provide sweeping new powers to various public agencies expanding their role from oversight to protect the public good, to empowering these agencies to be able to manipulate NYRA’s budget and operations.