01/18/2005 12:00AM

Plan would merge N.Y. panels


New York Gov. George Pataki called on state legislators to adopt a plan to reorganize how the state regulates gambling in a budget proposal released on Tuesday.

The reorganization would be similar to a plan supported by Pataki, a Republican, last year. That plan, to create a single commission to regulate all betting in the state, passed in the Republican-held Senate but was not taken up by the Assembly, where Democrats have a majority.

The plan announced Tuesday would consolidate a number of state agencies, including the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, the Capital Investment Fund, and the slot-machine activities of the Division of the Lottery, under the State Gaming Commission, according to the proposal.

The budget also recommends the creation of the Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board, which would direct the bidding for the racing franchise held by the New York Racing Association. The franchise, which is awarded by the Legislature and covers racing at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, is set to expire at the end of 2007.

New York's statutes require that the Legislature issue a request for proposals for the franchise by Dec. 1, 2005, at the earliest, and July 1, 2006, at the latest. The oversight board advocated by Pataki would direct that process, according to a Pataki official.

NYRA currently operates under an agreement with federal prosecutors that allowed the association to avoid an indictment on several tax-related criminal charges. The agreement came at the conclusion of a two-year investigation into the association by the state attorney general's office.

New York's Legislature passed a law allowing slot machines at eight racetracks, including Aqueduct, in 2001. Since then, only four racetracks have installed slot machines.

NYRA has said that it cannot go ahead with slot machines until its partner in the project, MGM Grand, receives assurances that the terms of the partnership will remain in effect even if NYRA loses the franchise.