08/06/2014 2:58PM

NYRA explores self-betting terminals at bars

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Almost four years after New York City Off-Track Betting closed, the New York Racing Association is hoping to re-enter the market by placing self-betting machines at select bars and restaurants throughout Manhattan.

According to Anthony Bonomo, a member of NYRA’s Re-Organization Board, he and NYRA president and chief executive Chris Kay have met with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and hope to finalize a proposal by September that would allow customers who are members of the NYRA Rewards program to wager on machines in some of the city’s establishments. Bonomo said NYRA would attempt to target 50 establishments in the five boroughs.

“We’ve had a couple of meetings with the city, the mayor’s office, and the mayor himself to discuss the strategy,” Bonomo said following a NYRA board meeting Wednesday at the Saratoga National Golf Course. “We’re very far down the line, I think, to getting the approval to go forward with this. It’s good for racing, it’s good for the bar owners because they’re looking for things to attract people into their establishments. It will be very controlled under the auspices of the mayor’s office.”

In order to avoid needing legislative approval for this to happen, only players who are NYRA Rewards members would be able to place a wager in a bar or restaurant.

Re-establishing its presence in the city will be part of NYRA’s long-term planning strategy for re-privatization that it hopes to present to the full board in December, though that plan is not due until April. The plan also will include recommendations regarding NYRA’s two downstate tracks, Aqueduct and Belmont Park.

Michael Dubb, who co-chairs the Long-Term Planning Committee with Bobby Flay, said, “There’s no economics operating two racetracks eight miles apart.”

Dubb said NYRA has engaged an architectural firm to discuss how to make Belmont “suitable for year-round racing, reducing the size of the grandstand, bring in other potential uses for some of the land,” with the goal of bringing more people to the track. “Every major sports venue in the city has been redone ... so we want to be on a level with them,” he said.

Though an alternate use of Aqueduct has not been determined, Dubb said Aqueduct’s “highest value is probably to Genting for future development.” Genting operates the casino at Aqueduct.

In other news:

◗ Through the first six months of 2014, NYRA had net income of $13.9 million but had an operating loss from racing operations totaling $5.2 million. NYRA has handled $1.1 billion this year, a 3.1 percent increase over the $1.078 billion handled through the first six months of 2013.

◗ While not taking a stance on the recent proposal by trainers to gradually phase out race-day medication, Kay said there will be meetings with NYRA’s Racing Committee and Equine Safety Committee “to address the efficacy of race-day medication, knowing the state will ultimately make the final decision.

“We know there are different points of view. We intend to address this issue promptly, fairly, and with all relevant information available to us and consider all stakeholders in this process,” he added. “We’ll do so over the next couple of months, doing what is right for the horse, for us, and for the horse-racing industry.”

◗ Kay was awarded a $250,000 bonus and a 3 percent raise on his $300,000 base salary by the board. “He’s restored NYRA to profitability, built a strong management team, improved equine safety, enforced transparency, and taken significant steps to enhance customer experience,” said Vincent Tese, chairman of the Compensation Committee.

◗ NYRA reported its fatality rate for horses on the track as 1.0 per 1,000 starters, a significant reduction from 2.1 per 1,000 starters in 2012.

◗ Marc Holliday, chairman of SL Green Realty Corp., was named to the NYRA board, replacing Jane Rosenthal, who resigned from the board in May.