08/16/2016 7:14PM

New York Racing Franchise Oversight Board approves 10-year plan for Saratoga renovations


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The New York Racing Franchise Oversight Board on Tuesday approved a plan devised by the New York Racing Association outlining the company’s long-term plans for renovations at its Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.

The board approved the document, entitled the “Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement,” by a unanimous vote at the Tuesday meeting. The document was initially presented in draft form to the oversight board in 2015, followed by public hearings and reviews by other state agencies.

The plan, which was produced in consultation with the racetrack-architecture company Turnberry Consulting, lays out a 10-year plan “to preserve, restore, and enhance” the 150-year-old racecourse in Saratoga Springs.

However, Robert Williams, executive director of the board, cautioned that the approval of the plan does guarantee that individual projects within the plan will be approved, as each project would have to receive separate approval by the oversight board and the state’s Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites Department.

Also at the meeting, an oversight board member, Steve Newman, clashed with NYRA’s chief executive officer, Chris Kay, shortly after NYRA began presenting its second-quarter figures, leading to a somewhat chippy exchange between the two.

Newman contended that NYRA should not be able to place revenue from a casino at Aqueduct on its books until it fully accounted for all of its costs and expenses, claiming that NYRA’s goal should be to post a profit without accounting for the statutorily required casino subsidies. He said NYRA’s current presentation was “obfuscating” the association’s true financial state by inserting the revenue from the subsidies prior to calculating net profit.

Kay countered that NYRA has always presented its accounting statements with the subsidies included above the line, and that the association’s auditing company, KPMG, has endorsed the association’s financial statements for years.

NYRA’s accounting became a public issue earlier this summer when the New York comptroller released a report that was critical of NYRA’s inclusion of the subsidies when calculating its racing profits. NYRA officials rejected the comptroller’s analysis.

Newman asked the oversight board to consider a rule in the future that would prohibit NYRA from using the subsidies prior to producing its net income or net loss figure. He also later asked NYRA to inform the board how long it has employed KPMG, saying it is “common practice” for companies to change auditing companies every “five or six years.”