07/31/2003 11:00PM

NYRA hit with $10k fine

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NEW YORK - The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has fined the New York Racing Association $10,000 for failing to get the proper approvals for a marketing promotion.

The fine was issued on July 31, according to Stacy Clifford, a spokeswoman for the board. NYRA has 10 days to appeal the fine, Clifford said.

The marketing promotion involved a "mystery mutuel voucher" that could be redeemed for a betting voucher or cash by attendees on Aug. 2 at Saratoga Race Course. In the promotion, each voucher is worth anywhere from $2 to $1 million; the vast majority are worth the minimum.

Mystery mutuel vouchers have become one of the most popular promotional tools used by racetracks over the past five years. The vouchers have been heavily pushed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, racing's national marketing organization.

Clifford said that NYRA mailed out 186,000 vouchers without first getting board approval, a requirement of state law. After the racing board criticized NYRA for the mailing, NYRA cancelled the promotion.

Bill Nader, a senior vice president at NYRA, did not return phone calls on Friday.

NYRA's past mystery mutuel voucher promotions were singled out recently in a report by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer as being a target for corrupt mutuel tellers. The report, which was highly critical of NYRA management, detailed a number of schemes involving the vouchers in which tellers could defraud patrons.

The widely publicized report has generated an intense amount of scrutiny of NYRA. Since the report was released, NYRA officials and Spitzer have clashed over the intention of the report and many of its details.

In response to the specific allegations about mystery mutuel vouchers, the racing and wagering board issued new guidelines regarding the promotion, including a recommendation that NYRA implement more thorough accounting procedures for the tickets. Clifford said that NYRA had declined to comply with the new procedures for its latest promotion and had decided to cancel the promotion instead.

Clifford also said that NYRA produced another 49,600 vouchers that were not mailed out. NYRA did not provide documentation to the board as to the location of those vouchers, Clifford said, despite a direct board request.

"Our audits and investigations department had questions as to why those weren't mailed, and so we asked them to show us some documentation on where they were or whether they were destroyed," Clifford said. "They never got back to us, and then they cancelled the promotion."