by Paul Post
New York Racing Association probably will not be out of bankruptcy or have its permanent 25-year franchise in place before the Saratoga Race Course meet opens two weeks from today.
The state Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board, which monitors NYRA’s business practices, is scheduled to meet Friday in Albany, New York, where the group is expected to approve the latest in a series of temporary extensions for NYRA.
NYRA’s current extension expires Saturday. The next extension would be NYRA’s sixth since its last long-term franchise expired on December 31, 2007. It is unclear yet for how long the next extension will be.
The situation does not jeopardize the Saratoga meet, but is becoming increasingly frustrating for NYRA, as the organization cannot make long-term plans or investments until bankruptcy is resolved.
On February 13, the state legislature approved giving NYRA a new 25-year franchise. But NYRA and the state are still working out legal details of the contract that mirrors such legislation, including transfer of NYRA’s racetracks to the state. The state will assume ownership of the tracks.
However, NYRA says that the franchise and bankruptcy cannot be resolved until the state names an operator to run Aqueduct’s proposed video lottery terminal facility. The gaming operator’s input and approval is key to various contracts, such as leasing Aqueduct from the state.
“Many things are hinged together,” said Brian Rosen, an attorney for NYRA. “NYRA cannot act with certainty because of its fiduciary obligation to all parties in interest. The state will not want to act because it would like to ensure that it is receiving what it has negotiated to receive. Accordingly, the documents need to be negotiated. If the state can negotiate as a surrogate for a VLT operator to be named later, then it can move forward quickly.”
That probably will not happen.
“If the state cannot, it will take some time,” Rosen said. “In either event, NYRA will continue to operate."
Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Governor David Paterson, on Tuesday said that a decision on the gaming operator is expected soon, but that Paterson’s office is giving new Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) time to review various proposals. Three separate groups have submitted bids for Aqueduct’s gaming contract.
Skelos replaced former Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick), who made a surprise announcement two weeks ago that he will not seek re-election this fall.
On another front, Paterson still has to sign a bill with technical amendments that “cleans up” the original February 13 racing legislation. The bill was approved in late June, but has not yet been delivered to Paterson’s office.
The legislature has 45 days to deliver bills for the governor’s signature, spokesman Morgan Hook said.
“I believe the NYRA chapter amendments bill will be delivered in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “I can’t imagine any reason why that would be held up.”
The legislature approved about 700 bills that are being delivered in groups. Once Paterson receives the bill, he has ten business days to act. His signature is expected.