by Tom Precious
The New York Racing Association, which has had to delay its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, was given another extension by the state to continue racing at its tracks.
A state board that oversees NYRA’s finances and operations on March 7 approved a new extension – this time until April 27 – to let racing continue uninterrupted while it completes the complex work needed to settle its bankruptcy case.
NYRA was hoping this week to get its bankruptcy plan approved by a federal judge in Manhattan. But officials say too much work is still left undone.
NYRA, according to Alan Kornberg, a lawyer for the state oversight board, now expects to get its bankruptcy plan approved March 19. But it has also gotten approval, in case other delays arise, until April 19. During the period, no other entity can submit a competing plan to NYRA’s bankruptcy proposal.
The state in February approved a new, 25-year franchise to give NYRA another exclusive deal to run Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. NYRA will get more than $200 million in bailouts and debt forgiveness from the state, and will relinquish its longstanding claim that it – and not the state – owns the tracks.
Kornberg told the oversight board NYRA still needs to complete a new franchise agreement with the state, finalize a settlement agreement that will provide a roadmap of how it will conduct business according to the franchise legislation, and complete amendments to a memorandum of understanding it signed with Gov. Eliot Spitzer last year for the franchise deal.
“There is quite a bit of work to be done,’’ Kornberg said.
Questions were also raised by the board about the use of the proceeds – expected to be as much as $15 million – from NYRA’s recently approved plan to sell off dozens of parcels of land around Aqueduct. The lawyer told the panel the proceeds can only be used to pay down the existing bills by creditors in the bankruptcy proceeding.
The oversight board may also have to meet again during the new extension period to help NYRA meet temporary funding needs, officials said.
The oversight board, by law, has been in charge of running racing in New York since NYRA’s franchise expired Dec. 31, 2007. The extension granted March 7 is the fifth by the board since December.