10/11/2007 11:00PM

N.Y. bidder loses partner

EmailDelaware North Companies Gaming and Entertainment has dropped out of Empire Racing Associates, the partnership that is one of four groups seeking the franchise held by the New York Racing Association, a spokeswoman for Delaware North confirmed on Friday.

The spokeswoman, Wendy Watkins, said that Delaware North informed Empire that it was dropping out of the group by letter on Oct. 9, one day before a hearing in front of the New York Senate’s Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering. Empire officials provided testimony at the hearing about their proposal to operate the franchise.

Delaware North dropped out because it does not believe that the legislature will approve a plan that would grant the rights to operate the three racetracks – Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga – and a casino at Aqueduct to one company, Watkins said. Instead, the legislature appears to have accepted a proposal recommended by Gov. Eliot Spitzer that would split the racing and casino franchises, according to Watkins.

“Empire has no opportunity for success,” Watkins read from a prepared statement.

Early in September, Spitzer recommended that NYRA receive a 30-year extension to operate the three tracks. Under the deal, the state and NYRA would select an outside operator for the Aqueduct casino.

Delaware North, which operates the casinos at harness tracks in Saratoga and Buffalo and owns Finger Lakes Racetrack and Gaming Center in Farmington, N.Y., was one of three major companies to drop out of Empire in the past week. The others were Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment Corp. Earlier this year, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association also dropped out.