01/13/2010 12:00AM

NYRA to reveal finances to state


The New York Racing Association has agreed to comply with a subpoena issued by the New York State Comptroller seeking the association's financial documents, the comptroller's office announced on Wednesday.

NYRA's decision is a political victory for the comptroller, Thomas P. Napoli, who issued the subpoena late last year after NYRA's chief executive, Charles Hayward, was quoted in various reports claiming that NYRA would need additional money from the state by early summer in order to keep operating its racetracks.

In a letter provided by the comptroller's office dated Tuesday, NYRA's general counsel, Patrick Kehoe, wrote that NYRA "has no objection" to the subpoena and that it would make the records available to auditing staff from the comptroller's office. Dan Silver, a NYRA spokesman, said Wednesday the association would have no further comment.

NYRA had initially balked at the subpoena, contending that the comptroller did not have the constitutional right to audit a non-profit corporation and that other regulatory agencies were responsible for overseeing NYRA's business operations. Various editorial boards disagreed with NYRA's position, including those of the New York Daily News and New York Post.

Hayward has claimed that NYRA will run out of money by June due to the state's delay in picking an operator for a casino at the association's Aqueduct racetrack. The casino, approved in 2001, would provide tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue to NYRA and its horsemen, and NYRA included those revenues in its 2010 budget.

Under a deal reached with the state in 2008 that allowed NYRA to emerge from bankruptcy, the state agreed to be responsible for keeping NYRA afloat financially until the casino was operational if the casino had not opened by May 2009. However, the state is facing a severe budget crisis, and politicians are loath to appear as if they are helping NYRA when other agencies are facing significant budget cuts.

DiNapoli said in his release that his auditing team will examine "millions of dollars in direct payments made to NYRA over the past couple years and monies owed the state by NYRA." As part of the 2008 deal, NYRA received approximately $105 million in cash from the state, and the state received the titles to the association's three racetracks, Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga.