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Local News October 4, 2012  RSS feed

State Takes Reins At NYRA

Temp. Power Play To Reform Racing
by Robert Pozarycki

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) will soon be under state control after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Monday, Oct. 1, authorizing the temporary takeover of the racing outfit that operates Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

In the weeks ahead, members will be appointed to the NYRA Reorganization Board that will operate the three tracks for the next three years in order to “restore public trust, accountability and transparency” to the corporation as well as the racing industry statewide, according to the governor.

“New York State’s racing industry is a major economic driver in the state, supporting thousands of jobs and attracting tourists from around the world,” Cuomo said in a press release issued on Monday. “New York taxpayers and the betting public deserve a racing industry that is managed competently and does not neglect the health and safety of the horses.”

The 17-member board of directors will comprise of appointees of Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and the existing NYRA board, which will be dissolved once at least nine members have been named to the temporary board. Cuomo will appoint a chairperson of the body. The state’s thoroughbred breeders and horsemen will each have non-voting members on the temporary panel.

Once in effect, the NYRA Temporary Board will “restructure and reorganize” the racing outfit, according to the Governor’s office. Over the years, the non-profit association came under fire on a variety of issues including wagering discrepancies.

In April, the state Racing and Wa- gering Board released a report which found that NYRA had withheld nearly than $8.5 million from bettors over a 15-month period by charging a higher “takeout” (surcharge) on certain exotic wagers than the percentage set by the state. Initially, former NYRA President and CEO Charles Heyward claimed the discrepancy was not intentional.

As previously reported in various publications, the state then withheld payments to NYRA the organization received based on a percentage of wagers at the Resorts World New York Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack. The current NYRA board, which includes 11 individuals appointed public officials, fired Heyward and the association’s then- Senior Vice President and General Counsel Patrick Kehoe in May.

That month, Cuomo announced that the state legislature and NYRA agreed to legislation authorizing the temporary board. Along with reforming the association, the panel will also search for a new chief executive officer and general counsel before allowing the association to revert to majority private control, the Governor’s office stated on Monday.

While changes are being made in NYRA’s front office, the racing continues at Belmont Park on the Queens/Nassau border, which is currently in the midst of its fall meet.

Horses will again be running at Aqueduct in November.