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State loan saves New York tracks from closure

May 26, 2010 8:35 AM by

New York State lawmakers have approved a $25 million loan for the New York Racing Association, which will now be able to keep its tracks open, at least for the rest of the year.

Belmont: NYRA last week announced that it would close Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga by June 9 if it didn’t received the state loan.NYRA last week announced that it would close Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga by June 9 if it didn’t received the state loan.

  "The Board of Directors of the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) along with its management and dedicated employees are grateful for the State legislature’s approval … of a $25 million loan which guarantees world class thoroughbred racing at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack," said NYRA Chairman C. Steven Duncker in a statement. "We appreciate the dedication and perseverance of Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Conference Leader John Sampson, Senate racing committee Chairman Eric Adams, and Assembly racing and wagering committee Chairman Gary Pretlow, and their respective staff members, which resulted in this legislation."

Under terms of the deal, NYRA must repay the loan by next March 31, which is within the state’s 2010 fiscal year.

Despite the loan, NYRA officials emphasize that the state is not "bailing out" the racing organization because the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., which is owned by the state, owes NYRA $17 million.

They further point out that the state promised to have the Aqueduct casino open by last year, but that project has been a comedy of errors with delay after delay.

Because of the constant delays in naming an Aqueduct casino operator, NYRA says it is entitled to financial help, under an agreement with the state formed in 2008.

Governor Paterson’s administration hopes to award a new agreement for the long-stalled casino sometime in early August.

"We await the State’s August recommendation of the firm to develop and operate the Aqueduct VLT facility so that the revenues fundamental to our 2008 Franchise Agreement with the State can commence and NYRA can continue its leadership role in the North American thoroughbred industry," Duncker said.

One state legislator agreed with NYRA’s assessment that its financial problems were compounded by the state’s delay in opening the Aqueduct casino, as well as the inability of OTB to pay its debts.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly racing committee, said NYRA would not be in the fiscal condition it faces were it not for the state’s failure to open the Aqueduct casino and the lapsed payments by NYCOTB.

"We never should have gotten to this point,’’ he said. Pretlow was critical of what he called the "still bloated’’ management at NYCOTB that don’t "want to pay their bills.’’

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