06/17/2016 8:44PM

State control of NYRA extended for one year

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Unable to reach an agreement on reprivatization, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators announced Friday night that the New York Racing Association would remain under state control for another year.

A one-paragraph statement posted on Cuomo’s website read that “this agreement extends the New York Racing Association Reorganization Board until Oct. 18, 2017, continuing the Board, which has successfully turned around NYRA's finances since its exit from bankruptcy in 2012. This agreement preserves the valuable public window into the operation of racing and wagering at New York's premiere racing facilities, and into the use of statutory racing support payments.”

The latter part of that statement is a reference to revenue NYRA receives from the video lottery terminals from the casino at Aqueduct, which became a bone of contention between Cuomo and legislative leaders in recent weeks. In a reprivatization bill proposed by Cuomo on June 8, he wanted to cap revenue from VLTs that would go to NYRA at $46 million, with the excess money going to the state lottery fund. In fiscal year 2015, NYRA received $58 million in VLT revenue, with $33.2 million directed to capital expenditures.

The agreement reached Friday night does not put a cap on VLT revenue, according to several sources.

Cuomo’s bill also called for a 17-member board of directors, with the state appointing eight members – including the chairman – and NYRA appointing eight members in addition to a seat for NYRA’s president and chief executive.

This week, the state Senate and Assembly passed similar bills that would have returned control of NYRA to the current management team, led by president and CEO Chris Kay, who was hired in July 2013. The bill called for a 15-member board of directors with two appointments for the governor and one appointment each for the leaders of the Assembly and Senate. The bill also reserved a seat on the board for NYRA’s president and CEO as well as one representative from the state’s horsemen’s association and breeders’ association.

The bill introduced by the Senate and Assembly closely resembled one of the options the NYRA Reorganization Board sent to Cuomo’s office in April for his approval.

In a statement released Friday night, Kay said, “Over the last three years, we are proud to have achieved financial stability, improved the safety and quality of our racing, and enhanced the fan experience. In achieving these goals, the New York Racing Association has demonstrated its professionalism, integrity, and competence, and has made our sport more sustainable. 

“We put NYRA back on a solid and sustainable financial position. The new board and management team took control of the operating budget and earned modest profits in each and every year while implementing extensive financial protocols to insure accuracy, trust, and stability for the future.”

NYRA claims it ended 2015 with an operating budget surplus of $3.5 million. NYRA has said it has shown a profit the last three years, exclusive of VLT revenue. However, state comptroller Tom DiNapoli disputed those numbers in an audit released June 10, the day before the Belmont Stakes. DiNapoli claims that NYRA over the last five years has lost $109 million through traditional racing operations.