01/22/2015 2:35PM

New York will extend control of NYRA for another year


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to extend the state’s control over the New York Racing Association for another year, according to a briefing book released Wednesday that lists the governor’s priorities for the state’s budget.

The budget briefing book contains one sentence in regard to the plan: “The Executive Budget extends the maximum term of the NYRA Reorganization Board of Directors from three years to four years.”

The state’s control over the board was set to expire in October. Cuomo engineered the takeover in 2012 in response to criticism of NYRA’s operations and finances.

The extension presumably would allow the board additional time to consider options for NYRA’s three properties – Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga – and its current status as a not-for-profit quasi-state agency. The options are limited by a raft of state regulations governing the association and the distribution of its revenue, and any plan to take the association private is considered impossible without a complete overhaul of the state’s racing laws, including statutes governing offtrack betting.

The board, which includes a majority of members appointed by Cuomo, began working on a so-called reorganization plan late last year in hopes of releasing recommendations to the legislature as early as this spring. The extension would not preclude the board from releasing its recommendations to the legislature sooner than the new dissolution date.

Several months ago, NYRA’s chief executive, Chris Kay, said the current plan would not include a recommendation on the future of Aqueduct, despite support from Cuomo for a redevelopment of the property.

“It would not be appropriate to make any decisions that will have such a long-term and permanent effect on not only NYRA but the communities we serve and the horse-racing industry in this state,” Kay said at a board meeting in mid-November. “Thus, our current thought is not to include any recommendations regarding any changes in the operations of either Aqueduct or Belmont as part of our reorganization plan.”

NYRA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The provision of the budget containing the extension is not expected to be controversial among legislators and likely will survive in whatever form of the budget that is approved by lawmakers. By statute, the state budget in New York must be approved by the end of March, though deliberations have often extended well beyond the deadline in the past.

The current reorganization plan already includes a recommendation that NYRA remain a not-for-profit entity, according to board members. According to NYRA officials, the association is expected to show a cash surplus of $1.5 million once it releases its audited financial sheets for 2014.