11/12/2014 6:53PM

NYRA: No immediate plans for Aqueduct

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Barbara D. Livingston
NYRA president and CEO Chris Kay said Aqueduct lost $11.9 million for the 2013-14 winter meet.

NEW YORK – Aqueduct isn't going away just yet.

When the New York Racing Association Reorganization Board makes its recommendations to the state regarding the future of the company and its three racetracks, it will not include a proposal regarding the future of Aqueduct, NYRA president and chief executive Chris Kay said Wednesday at a meeting of the board of directors in Manhattan.

The prevailing theory since Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed a new NYRA board in the fall of 2012 was to consolidate racing into one downstate track – presumably Belmont Park –  and Saratoga. Cuomo has made public comments that the property on which Aqueduct sits could be put to better use such as low-income housing.

However, Kay said that since the current board of directors is only “temporary and transitional … it would not be appropriate to make any decisions that will have such a long-term and permanent effect on not only NYRA but the communities we serve and the horse-racing industry in this state. Thus, our current thought is not to include any recommendations regarding any changes in the operations of either Aqueduct or Belmont as part of our reorganization plan.

“Instead, if there is going to be any change – and we’re not commenting at this point if there is –  that would be the responsibility of the next board, the board that will control NYRA’s future for decades to come,” Kay added.

Kay mentioned to the board that it has invested $14 million over the last year-plus into Aqueduct. However, Kay also claims that Aqueduct’s 2013-14 winter meet lost $11.9 million, exceeding the budgeted loss by $2 million.

The current board of directors was approved in 2012 by Cuomo, who required that the board make recommendations on the future of NYRA within three years, with the expectation of returning it to private control in the fall of 2015. The current board is set to dissolve in October.

Most of Wednesday’s meeting was spent discussing what a new NYRA board would look like, but offered few other details.

Working under the current statutes, the NYRA board will recommend that whoever runs the three racetracks remain a not-for-profit entity. It also recommended that the board be a smaller group than is now in place. Currently, there are 17 board members; NYRA is considering proposing about 13.

As far as any concrete plans for the future, none were offered.

However, Kay and Susanne Stover, NYRA’s chief financial officer, said that NYRA, exclusive of revenue from the video lottery terminals at the Resorts World casino, will show a surplus of $1.5 million 2014, six times what NYRA had budgeted. NYRA is budgeting for a surplus of $2.1 million in 2015.

"Our business plan reflects a business headed in the right direction," Kay said.

This new board has constantly talked about making NYRA profitable without factoring in VLT revenue, though Kay said, “I’m not suggesting in any way that we aren’t entitled to those funds.”

NYRA has become profitable by a combination of cutting workforce, raising prices as well as having a fantastic Belmont Stakes Day, which brought in $4.4 million above budgeted revenue. Kay indicated that there would be a further price increases for next year’s Belmont Stakes, the details of which likely will be forthcoming at the Dec. 3 board meeting.

Kay said NYRA is using a lot of the VLT revenue to take care of pension benefit and federal tax expenses.

As far as racing operations are concerned, Kay said, “We can’t afford to spend more money to operate on a daily basis than we generate in revenue.”

Most of the Sept. 29 board meeting was spent talking about how well the Saratoga meet did financially. It was not mentioned at Wednesday’s board meeting that all-sources handle at the recently concluded Belmont meet was down 9.8 percent, or $32 million, compared with the 2013 Belmont fall meet.

Business has been no better at Aqueduct through the first two weeks of the meet. For the first two weeks of the meet, average daily all-sources handle is $5,774,159, down 22 percent from $7,404,213 through the first two weeks last year. This fall, Aqueduct has run 11 cards, compared with eight through two weeks last year.

Part of Belmont’s handle decline was due to 47 races being taken off the turf due to inclement weather. Kay said there has been talk about putting a synthetic track inside of Belmont’s two turf courses in part to keep fields intact when races are rained off the turf.

“There’s another reason to have a synthetic inner track” at Belmont besides the potential of conducting winter racing, Kay said.

In other news:

• Kay said the 2015 Saratoga meet would remain in its current format of 40 days spread over 6 1/2 weeks. There had been some discussion about racing five days a week, thus expanding by one week the 40-day racing season.

Kay wouldn’t specifically address the question as to why that decision was made. Asked if there was pushback from upstate residents and/or businesses about expanding the meet, Kay said, “It would be fair to say no matter what I’ve said since I started here, there’s always been somebody who gives me pushback.”

• Stover said Aqueduct could host a version of the Claiming Crown that would be held in late March over the inner track before NYRA takes a short break.

jusonemoretweet More than 1 year ago
This sounds like they're more than happy kicking the can down the road.
Cougar Paisley More than 1 year ago
Reading the New York horse racing saga with all the trappings of state government, politics, racing associations, horsemen's associations,, and real estate re-development can only provide great public theatre for the upcoming winter. Oh, the public, remember them, the ones who end up paying for all of this, as we we watch it all unfold act by act, while the horse and the race are rendered irrelevant. New York only needs to look to New Jersey, to see how a non-profit horsemens association (NJTHA) can secure a $1 dollar a year lease from a state government entity (NJSEA) to operate a state-owned racetrack (Monmouth Park) on state-owned property (Taxpayers). The NJTHA received from the NJSEA an upfront commiittment of 13 millions dollars in the forms of loans and grants (Taxpayer money). The non-profit NJTHA then went out and hired a for-profit management company (Darby Development, LLC) to run Monmouth Park racing and to re-develop the surplus property. The president of the new management firm just happens to be the NJTHA's former lawyer/lobbyist, who also served as a former NJ Racing Commissioner (Dennis Drazin). Mr. Drazin had to step down first from the racing commission and sit out a couple of years due to conflict of interest and NJ ethics law, before publicly talking helm. The non-profit NJTHA with taxpayer dollars to play with, continue to report that they are suffering 3 to 4 millions dollar a year losses running Monmouth Park. The NJTHA has also spent millions of dollars in legal fees and costs to pursue legalized sport betting in NJ. Darby Development has already engaged in contracts with Willam Hill, an international bookmaking firm, and Morris Bailey (Resorts World Casino) whom would share the revenues to operate and build a casino on the Monmouth property,.This all in advance of any proper state legislation that would allow such gaming activity.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
i have to laugh whenever a ny poiitician says,we can use it for low incme housng,fall down laughter, if it werent for the casino sitting on the property it would have been closed by now . it is prime real estate in queens sitting in howard beach worth millions. belmont is not winterized,rundown and would cost a fortune to adapt to winter racing. if ny is to continue to racing in the winter aqu will stay just as it is. politicos spending lots of $$$ consulting firms etc,just stealing whatever they can. all these conferences are just an excust to raid whatever cash the boad can carry out of theroom. this has all the aspects of the outright theft of roosevelt raceway back in the day that area was worth so much in real estate that the local politiians headed by d'amato took it all . NEVER trust a ny politcian
russell More than 1 year ago
Neil Drysdale was %100 correct when he called the 2nd BC post- apolyoltic racing. Its only gotten worse. I cant thing of a positive thing to say about Aqu. But some sharp 2yolds always race there in the next week before Gulfstream.
Mel More than 1 year ago
Given enough time, Cuomo and the rest of the NY politicians, will kill NY horse racing. The politicians have been plucking at the golden goose for years. Now they have Cuomo, who is worse then all of them past and present. This guy is a Libtard in the most onerous way. He wants to be King and he has the minions on their knees waiting for the handouts.
Matthew Linda Jr. More than 1 year ago
Chris Kay, NYRA's President and Chief Executive and Susanne Stover, NYRA's CFO, honestly don't know the difference from a Thorough-bred to a Standard-bred. The Sport-of-Kings is spinning out of control and these TWO political appointees are calling the SHOTS. God bless AMERICA and who you KNOW !!!!
riddick More than 1 year ago
Mixed message, They're licking their chops at VLT revenue. Who plays VLT machines, Mary Lou Whitney? NOT! Poor people do! There's got to be a better idea than take AQU away and build more concrete. Then what happens to turf racing? They'll be far less of it as they "protect" the turf because most likely Belmont will get more dates. Politicians screw everything up no matter what the party is. VLT bad idea, Low income Housing bad idea. Stay the course. 2 tracks in NYC.
russell More than 1 year ago
The land at Aqudump is very very valuable. The Port Authority has wanted this land for 25 years. Its probably worth over 2 billion. Aqu will close in the next 5 years. The only question is will Genting or the Port Authority buy the land.
John Collins Jr. More than 1 year ago
Cuomo wants to make aqueduct a low income housing project. Oh yea, that's brilliant! Cuomo is an idiot. Let's bring in more trouble and problems to the area.
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
As are those who voted for the Don.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
"Kay also claims that Aqueduct’s 2013-14 winter meet lost $11.9 million, exceeding the budgeted loss by $2 million." Key word: claims Setting: Accounting Trick Theme: Flimflam (as in: we were expecting to lose money, just not this much. Read: Better quit those long lunches and golf trips in my state funded car)
riddick More than 1 year ago
you right. thew big tracks no way they lose money. it's a combination of accounting and robbing the place blind. I see far too many well-dressed managers bopping around the big tracks with the easy jobs. They would not be there if they money was no good. so if they are truly suffering , they're robbing it blind