07/28/2009 11:00PM

NYRA restores signal in Nassau County


A blackout of the television signal from the tracks operated by the New York Racing Association in Nassau County on Long Island ended on Wednesday, the first day of NYRA's popular Saratoga meet, but hard feelings over the dispute that led to the blackout remain.

NYRA restored the signal to Nassau's cable subscribers on Wednesday morning, just hours before first post on opening day at Saratoga. The restoration ended a two-month blackout that started when NYRA pulled the signal's plug on June 3 after accusing Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation of illegally streaming the video signal from NYRA's Aqueduct racetrack on its Internet wagering site for two months.

NYRA President Charles Hayward said the association agreed to restore the signal through the intervention of John Sabini, a former state legislator who is the chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

According to officials with knowledge of the situation, NYRA officials and Nassau officials had attempted to broker an agreement to restore the signal on Tuesday at meetings in Albany, but those talks went nowhere, leading Sabini to get involved.

Although Nassau stopped providing the signal on its Internet wagering site when NYRA complained, Hayward had earlier said that he would not give Nassau the right to broadcast NYRA's races to its in-home customers until the OTB's top officials acknowledged that they were aware that the practice was illegal. Nassau officials continued to maintain that they were unaware that the signal was being streamed on the site, which was run by two third-party companies.

As a result of the blackout, Nassau filed a $15 million lawsuit in mid-June seeking a judgment that would restore the signal, and Nassau officials said on Wednesday that they would continue to pursue the suit in order to seek damages. In response, Hayward said Wednesday morning that NYRA intended to file a countersuit to the suit filed by Nassau.

"We're going to file a countersuit seeking damages and we'll let the courts figure it out," Hayward said.

Dino Amoroso, the president of Nassau, refused to comment beyond a statement acknowledging that the signal had been restored on Wednesday.

"I would like to thank Charles Hayward and John Sabini for the restoration of the signal," Amoroso said. "It will be beneficial to the racing fans in Nassau County and will go a long way toward making the Saratoga meet a success."