12/07/2005 1:00AM

NYRA encouraged by talk


Charles Hayward, the chief executive of the embattled New York Racing Association, said Wednesday that he was "encouraged" by a meeting with officials from a state oversight board on Tuesday to discuss options for NYRA to avert bankruptcy.

Hayward declined to be specific about any of the options discussed, citing an agreement with officials of the state oversight board to keep the discussion confidential. Hayward did say, however, that the discussion included a number of possible options for NYRA to raise cash by the end of this year. A second meeting with the oversight board has been scheduled for Friday, Hayward said.

"I think the best word would be 'encouraged,' " Hayward said when asked if he was more confident about NYRA's ability to avert bankruptcy as a result of the discussion. " 'Confident' is probably too strong a word."

Hayward has said that NYRA will run out of cash by the end of this year if the association does not find a way to raise money until it opens a casino at Aqueduct next year. NYRA has been pushing to sell 80 parcels of land adjacent to Aqueduct as one of its options, but the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and the oversight board have said that NYRA cannot proceed with the sale without their approvals.

NYRA has also discussed the possibility of deferring its tax and fee payments to the state for one year, which would allow the association to retain approximately $30 million.

The oversight board was created earlier this year in order to monitor NYRA's operations. NYRA's franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga and the casino at Aqueduct expires at the end of 2007.

The meeting on Tuesday included Carole Stone, the chairwoman of the oversight board, and Joseph Torani, a member of the five-person board, Hayward said. One month ago, Stone sent a letter to NYRA asking the association to consider several measures to raise cash, including a takeout increase and the mortgage of several of its broadcast agreements.