05/25/2016 2:57PM

NYRA re-privatization bill introduced


The chairman of the New York Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee introduced a bill on Wednesday that would restore control of the board of the New York Racing Association to the association itself, as part of a “re-privatization” plan required by statute.

The bill, introduced by Sen. John Bonacic, a Republican, would replace the current 17-member board with a 15-member board, with eight of the appointments controlled by the association and four of the appointments controlled by the state government. Two additional seats would be reserved for horsemen’s and breeders’ organizations, and the final seat would be filled by the association’s chief executive.

The current NYRA board was put in place in 2012 at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had been harshly critical of the association’s management. The majority of the appointments were made by Cuomo and legislative leaders. The board was supposed to be reorganized in 2015, but legislation pushed by Cuomo last year delayed the reorganization for a year.

The bill is expected to be a starting point in negotiations with the New York Assembly and the governor’s office. New York’s legislative session is scheduled to end on June 16.

Of the eight seats controlled by NYRA, three would be required to be filled by a resident each of Queens, Nassau, and Saratoga counties, the locations of NYRA’s three tracks, according to the bill.

The state’s governor would have two appointees, while the leaders of the Senate and the Assembly would have one each. The governor would also have the ability to select the chairman of the first reorganized board.

The legislation would also reserve a spot each on the board for the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. The bill also states that the boards for both organizations must make a seat available to a representative of NYRA.

All of the board seats would have terms of three years, though the terms for the first board members would be staggered to allow for the appointment of five members each year. The bill would allow the initial members appointed by the state to serve the full three-year terms.

The bill does not include any language regarding a clawback of slot-machine subsidies that NYRA receives. On Tuesday, a Saratoga group stated that it had received notice from lobbyists that Gov. Cuomo intends to push for a clawback of the portion of the subsidy that NYRA receives to spend on capital improvements. The money would instead go into the general fund, the Saratoga group said.