Updated on 06/15/2016 3:35PM

NYRA reprivatization bill heads to governor's desk


The New York Senate and Assembly passed bills on Wednesday that would return control of the board of the New York Racing Association to the association itself, but it is unclear if the legislation will be acceptable to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The relatively straightforward bill would give NYRA eight appointments on a reconstituted 15-member board, with two appointments for the governor and one appointment each for the leaders of the Assembly and Senate. The bill would also reserve one seat each on the board for NYRA’s chief executive a representative of the state’s horsemen, and a representative of the state’s breeders.

The bills were passed one week after Cuomo introduced his own legislation to revamp the board, a bill that also included a handful of relatively complex provisions related to NYRA’s casino subsidies. The goal of revamping the NYRA board was expected to be hashed out in negotiations between the leaders of the Senate and Assembly and the governor’s office, but those talks have apparently foundered.

The New York legislative session is scheduled to end Thursday, but there was some talk Wednesday of an extension until Friday.

The legislature addressed the bills on the same day that Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing, a pro-business group located in Saratoga Springs, held a press conference to voice concerns that the legislature would not return control of NYRA back to the association this year. The annual summer Saratoga Race Course meet is an enormous generator of revenue for area businesses each year.

Cuomo engineered a takeover of the NYRA board in 2012, citing dissatisfaction with NYRA’s management, at a time when his office was heavily involved in talks with casino interests over an expansion of casino properties in the state. The takeover was supposed to last three years, but Cuomo successfully pushed for a one-year extension last year.

If Cuomo and legislative leaders do not work out a separate deal between now and the end of the session, Cuomo will be faced with allowing the bill passed Wednesday to become law or allowing the state’s control over the NYRA board to expire, in which case the board would revert to the composition it had prior to the 2012 takeover.