The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is committed to representing the interests of owners and trainers at the New York Racing Association tracks. NYTHA recognizes that its constituents are the lifeblood of the racing industry in New York and focuses its efforts on doing what is best for New York horsemen.
Times Union: Editorial: We must avert racing catastrophe
No one would be reckless enough to do anything to hurt Saratoga horseracing.
Conventional wisdom used to be, no way. Now we’re not so sure.
Horseracing drives this economy. Even if you’ve never been to the track, you curse the August traffic and you don’t know how to place a bet, we bet you know someone whose livelihood depends on Saratoga Race Course. The financial well-being of this growing region is tied to the uninterrupted success of Saratoga Race Course. No one would jeopardize that.
With 34 days into a new year with no new contract, we’re not so sure.
What’s the holdup? We’re not sure about that, either.
Literally millions of dollars and thousands of hours have been invested in the competition to run Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack as well as the VLTs that are supposed to be installed at Aqueduct. The lengthy, expensive selection process, for better or worse, was thrown out the window. But the state’s three most powerful politicians — Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, whose district includes Saratoga Springs, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — and the New York Racing Association have thus far failed to get the job done.
Who’s to blame? The other guy. Just ask them.
The Saratoga region can’t afford to keep waiting. Trainers and owners need to know that they can count on spring training at the Oklahoma Training Track across the street from the racecourse, not to mention the summer races themselves. Hotels, restaurants, shops, and the countless businesses affiliated with the racing industry need to prepare for guests, hire help, order goods and supplies for the summer season.
The public has been patient long enough. Rival tracks in other states — as close as Pennsylvania — would gladly drive a stake into New York racing.
So get moving, guys:
NYRA should abandon its claims to owning the track properties and the state should lift NYRA out of bankruptcy.
The New York Racing Association needs to clean house, much like the purging that preceded the turnaround of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The old boys’ club didn’t mind the store the way it should have.
A sufficient percentage of racing and VLT revenue must be re-invested into prize money and capital improvements.
A new franchise agreement should protect, in writing, things that make Saratoga Race Course so successful, such as the quality and quantity of the races, the length of the season, the commitment to the training track, and the historic integrity of the racecourse.
Saratoga must be guaranteed payments equivalent to the property taxes paid to the city, school district and county, with the amounts increasing as the value of the land increases.
Boosting interest in the dismally attended Belmont Park should be a priority, whether or not the track ends up having VLTs. NYRA and the state were asleep at this wheel.
Whoever runs the tracks and the VLTs should be subject to public scrutiny.
Thirty years is too long to commit to one track operator.
What should be made of Thursday’s startling resignation of Adirondack Trust Co. Chairman Charles Wait from the New York Racing Association’s board of trustees, and his dire warning that the lack of a new agreement will jeopardize racing? After 23 years of staying below the public radar as a NYRA board member, Wait took off his NYRA hat and, with his bank cap still firmly in place, blamed Bruno for the lack of a new franchise agreement. That’s a daring accusation against the politician who has been this region’s benefactor for years.
But is Charles Wait a Chicken Little, or is the sky really in danger of falling? Perhaps, as has been suggested, he is out to scare the public. Maybe he’s just trying to wake us up. Either one is acceptable if it forces NYRA and the politicians to reach a compromise.
The current extension of the franchise agreement that ended on Dec. 31, 2007 is due to expire on Feb. 13, just 10 days away. Bruno promised Friday that a resolution would be announced before then.
We hope he’s right.
Meanwhile, every day on this page we’ll keep counting on the days without a new contract — and urge you to speak up. Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and, just as important, contact those politicians directly.
The conventional wisdom now suggests that it’s not enough to sit quietly waiting for NYRA and the politicians to get the job done.
Tell them what you think:
Governor Eliot Spitzer
Albany, NY 12224
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno
New York State Senate
Room 909, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
New York State Assembly
Room 932, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
P.O. Box 170070
Jamaica, NY 11417