Updated on 05/24/2016 4:33PM

VLT clawbacks in Cuomo's NYRA reorganization plan


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to re-privatize the New York Racing Association includes a provision to pull some of the revenue racing receives from the casino at Aqueduct, according to a watch group based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing on Tuesday issued a press release rejecting Gov. Cuomo’s plan to re-privatize NYRA, which runs racing at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. According to this group, the governor’s plan would redirect an unspecified amount of revenue from the VLTs at Aqueduct that is earmarked for NYRA to use for capital improvements at its three tracks to the state’s general fund.

“We are vehemently opposed to the transfer of funds legally designated via prior agreements to support our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund,” according to a release from the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga. “This change ignores the fact that New York State was given $1 billion in real estate at NYRA’s three tracks in return for the granting of a 25-year franchise agreement and a legislatively approved revenue sharing formula from the VLT at Aqueduct. The VLT revenues are like mortgage payments for the land. If they can change the agreement this year, they will change it next year, too.”

Further, under the plan, the governor would appoint five of the 15 members of the NYRA board with one member each also being appointed by the head of the Senate and Assembly. Cuomo would also have the power to appoint the new chairman of the Board of Directors.

Lastly, the Cuomo’s proposal would provide agencies such as the New York Gaming Commission powers to manipulate NYRA’s budget and operations.

Todd Shimkus, a member of the Concerned Citizens group and the head of the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, said multiple sources in Albany have told him about Cuomo’s plan, which has not been formally introduced.

“We triple-checked this to make sure we were right,” Shimkus said. “If the governor’s office wants to say we’re wrong, hallelujah.”

“Governor Cuomo and the Legislature saved NYRA from yet another bankruptcy in 2012 and installed a Board and management team that has brought success on every metric, while being accountable to the racing industry, taxpayers and host communities – including Saratoga Springs," said a spokesman from the governor's office in a statement. "The Governor will ensure the future of NYRA continues this trajectory of success.”

A spokesman from the NYRA said the company would would have no comment.

If the Governor’s plan is introduced by June 16, the end of this legislative session, it would be significantly different than the one the NYRA Reorganization Board submitted to him last month.

The Senate and Assembly have been reported to be working on bills that are in stark contrast to Cuomo’s and do not touch VLT revenue, according to sources.

Four years ago, the state took over control of NYRA, creating a Reorganization Board, which was charged with developing a re-privatization plan by Oct. 2015. That board’s tenure was extended one year and last month the NYRA Board submitted a plan to the governor for consideration.

The plan only addressed the make-up of the board of directors, offering the governor two options. The first option would consist of a 15-member board that would include two members selected by the governor and one each by the Speaker of the Assembly and President of the Senate. The second option would consist of 15 private members, all selected by NYRA.

A third option to extend the current tenure of the Reorganization Board for an additional year was also included.

The NYRA Reorganization Board is scheduled to hold a meeting Wednesday in Manhattan.