05/17/2010 11:00PM

Paterson plan for NYRA aid calls for $17M


Though New York Gov. David Paterson said on Tuesday that his office has a plan to loan the New York Racing Association $17 million, officials close to the negotiations to secure the loan warned that Paterson's comments did not reflect any substantive progress in devising a legislative solution to keep the cash-strapped NYRA operating.

Paterson made the comments during a press conference on Tuesday after being asked if NYRA would run out of money before the opening of its meet at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs on July 24.

"That's not going to happen," Paterson said, according to the Associated Press. "We have a plan to loan NYRA, in the short term, money to get through Saratoga, and we're working on a long-term plan to help beyond that."

NYRA officials said on Tuesday that they would not comment about Paterson's remarks.

But an official who has knowledge of ongoing discussions between NYRA and the governor's office said that the talks have yet to produce any specific plan to loan NYRA the money. NYRA had said on Monday that those talks were expected to restart on Tuesday morning, but the official with knowledge of the talks said that it was unclear if any NYRA officials met with officials in Paterson's office that day.

During the press conference, Paterson said he expected the legislature to approve a $17 million loan to the association, but he did not provide specifics on how the loan would be structured. NYRA has been seeking that amount under previous legislative efforts that have fallen short, in part because of legal complications that restrict how the state can loan money. The state is also reluctant to lend a helping hand to NYRA because of its own problems addressing a $9 billion budget shortfall.

Officials in Paterson's office did not respond to phone calls on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Charles Hayward, NYRA's president, said that NYRA may not be able to complete the current Belmont Park meet without state assistance. The meet closes on July 18.

On Sunday, Hayward told reporters that NYRA was considering closing the day after the June 5 Belmont Stakes, citing the association's cash needs.

Although NYRA is being squeezed by the bankruptcy filing earlier this year of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation, which owes NYRA $17 million and has put in place cash-management procedures that are delaying some of its statutory payments to the association, NYRA is also operating under a budget that included anticipated revenue from a casino at Aqueduct. The state has yet to select an operator for the casino, and the casino is not expected to open until the middle of 2011, at the earliest.