Last-minute bailout for NYRA

Jan 3, 2006 4:27 AM

Talk about being saved by the bell”¦New York State officials agreed on Dec. 30 to a $30 million bailout plan for the financially-strapped New York Racing Association (NYRA).

And the agreement came just one day before NYRA planned to file for bankruptcy.

According to NYRA President Charles Hayward, the operators of New York’s three biggest racetracks didn’t have the cash to pay for the weekend purses or for the coming employees payday. So, part of the deal required that the Port Authority of New York hustle about $1 million over to NYRA right away.

The $1 million will be a down payment on the $5 million the Port Authority will be paying to purchase land near Aqueduct racetrack. Another $5 million will be part of a loan made to NYRA by the Empire State Development Corp., the state’s main economic development agency.

The remaining $20 million will be in the form of another loan from the N.Y. State Lottery with the money to be repaid from NYRA’s revenues when slot machines are set up at Aqueduct some time later this year.

Brokering the bailout were Joseph Bruno, the Senate majority leader, and Gov. George Pataki, who both said it was imperative to save the thousands of jobs that would be lost if the tracks closed.

However, observers were quick to note that Bruno, frustrated with NYRA, is insisting that bidders be sought for the NYRA franchise before the existing franchise expires at the end of 2007.