03/15/2017 11:20AM

Cuomo's plans for New York Racing Association meet opposition


Separate budget proposals from the New York Assembly and Senate have rejected several aspects of a plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reorganize the board of the New York Racing Association and grant new powers to a NYRA oversight agency.

The proposals, which would give Cuomo two appointments to NYRA’s board rather than the six that he requested in his own budget proposal, will lay the groundwork for negotiations expected to take place over the next two weeks between Cuomo’s administration and the state’s Senate and Assembly leaders. A final budget proposal is due March 31, just prior to the start of the 2017 fiscal year.

In January, Cuomo released a budget proposal that would grant NYRA the power to appoint eight of the 15 members of its board. That proposal would restore control of the board to NYRA, five years after Cuomo engineered a state takeover of the board, citing concerns over the association’s financial management. At the time of the takeover, Cuomo’s administration was in talks with casino companies over proposals that would expand casino gambling in the state.

The Assembly and Senate budget proposals would limit Cuomo to two appointees to the board and grant the Senate and Assembly leadership one appointment each. In all three proposals, NYRA would receive eight appointees.

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According to a summary of the Assembly proposal, the plan also rejects Cuomo’s request that the NYRA Franchise Oversight Board be granted new powers to suspend NYRA’s receipt of casino subsidies if the association “has experienced two consecutive years of material losses due to circumstances within the control” of NYRA. The summary also said that it opposed Cuomo’s plan to require horsemen and tracks to pay a substantially larger amount of the costs of equine drug testing in the state.

The Assembly proposal also includes language that would amend an agreement between a casino at NYRA’s Aqueduct racetrack and Nassau Off-Track Betting Corp. “to ensure the proper amounts of aid to education and the racing industry.”

New York’s racing constituencies have been highly critical of the existing agreement, which allowed the casino to designate hundreds of its existing slot machines to an allotment given to Nassau. The maneuver will cost the racing industry at least $10 million a year in subsidies, racing officials have told legislators.