In the latest battle between NYRA and state officials, the state is now withholding part of NYRA's VLT revenue generated at Aqueduct. YNN's C.J. Spang has the details.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- "There's been problems at NYRA that go back decades, literally. And it doesn't have the public trust. And I think it hasn't earned the public's trust either and that's what we have to change because racing could be a very important economic engine for this state," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Because of those continued problems, part of the VLT money generated at Aqueduct is now being withheld from NYRA. Money that has long been touted as critical to making the organization profitable.
"I know they wanted to send a message to NYRA, but in sending a message, you don't want to hurt thoroughbred racing or the owners or the breeders or the horsemen or the racing industry itself," Assemblyman James Tedisco said.
"If management did something wrong, then they should be punished, in my opinion. But the horsemen themselves, they've done the right thing and hopefully the governor cleans this place up," said trainer H. James Bond.
Cleaning up could mean revoking NYRA's franchise agreement to operate Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. That threat is included in a letter from the Franchise Oversight Board and the State Racing and Wagering Board that sharply criticizes NYRA's handling of multiple issues, including overcharging bettors approximately $8.5 million and the subsequent changes in leadership, which the letter deems inappropriate.
Tedisco said, "I think they squandered this opportunity because of that arrogance, incompetence and lack of integrity. So I really think we're heading down a road where we look for some other group to run racing and hopefully improve it and bring back the integrity we need."
In Saratoga Springs, there are concerns about NYRA's woes potentially affecting the upcoming Saratoga meet if nothing is done to correct the problems.
"I don't think this will have any impact on people coming to Saratoga. I do think it will have an impact if we don't get the best horses, the best jockeys, the best owners and the best trainers," said Todd Shimkus, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President.
"These problems cannot defeat that wonderful race track that will be 150 years old next year. And that's been the best race track not only in the country, but probably the world right now. We have something going and we can't allow these people to screw it up," said State Senator Roy McDonald.
In a statement, NYRA says it forwarded the letter to its attorney and will respond after review. As for the Saratoga meet, it runs from July 20th to September 5th.
NYRA responded to Tuesday’s letter from Racing and Wagering and Franchise Oversight board by stating their appointments are in compliance with NYRA’s bylaws. They released a statement, saying in part, "NYRA’s Board acted to ensure that there was professional management in place to operate a complex business which has a significant economic impact on New York State. The NYRA Board has a fiduciary obligation to exercise its business judgment to protect the best interests of racing and the income stream that pari-mutuel wagering provides to the state."