12/29/2007 12:00AM

NYRA extension made official

EmailThe New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Saturday tacitly approved an agreement between the state and the New York Racing Association that will allow the association to continue to operate Aqueduct racetrack until at least Jan. 23.

During an emergency meeting on Saturday that lasted four minutes, members of the board unanimously agreed with Robert Feuerstein, the board's legal counsel, that the board did not need to approve the agreement in order to allow NYRA to continue to operate. As a result, NYRA will not be forced to shut down after Dec. 31, when its franchise expires.

The board was called into emergency session on Friday to consider the agreement, which was reached between NYRA and the state's attorney general on Thursday night. Under the agreement, NYRA will retain all of its legal rights to Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga racetracks.

The agreement will keep NYRA in operation for a full two weeks after the legislature is scheduled to return to session on Jan. 9. Any long-term extension to NYRA's franchise must be approved by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the assembly, and the senate.

Negotiations between state officials on a long-term extension to its franchise took place on Thursday and Friday, but no agreement was reached. Officials involved in the negotiations said that some progress was made toward resolving differences of opinion between Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- who supports a 30-year extension -- and Sen. Joseph Bruno, the senate majority leader, who is pushing for a shorter extension and the creation of a board that would control some aspects of NYRA's business.

NYRA's last racing day of the 2007 calendar year is Sunday. Aqueduct is dark on Monday, but is scheduled to resume racing on Tuesday, Jan. 1.