- I guess that me and the seagulls are about the only ones that are happy when Aqueduct opens. Steve Crist wrote the other day in his BC wrap up:
The Biggest Day-After Comedown: Realizing that Aqueduct opens Wednesday. For six months.This year, the meeting opens under the most ominous of circumstances – the stated possibility of NYRA running out of cash by the end of this month. CEO Charles Hayward, after saying that there are no plans to scale back the racing schedule or to cut purses, added that without any assistance, "I can't absolutely say" there won't be an interruption of the Aqueduct racing schedule. [Daily Racing Form]
The plans to sell $20 million worth of land whose ownership is under dispute is still on the table; and the auction of paintings is scheduled for next month. Sotheby's predicts one of paintings from unnamed private collections that captures the excitement of a racecourse is expected to sell for $750,000. [Associated Press] I presume that Frank Stronach will not be one of the bidders; an attorney for an unnamed potential bidder for the franchise argued to the oversight board that NYRA "has no authority to sell, or otherwise dispose of, any of the properties for the purpose of using such proceeds to pay for costs caused by its misconduct." I don’t understand how an interruption of the racing schedule or a significant purse cut due to lack of cash would really help anyone at this point, Friend or foe. Hayward is also holding out the possibility of a loan or bailout from Albany.
The Albany Times-Union reports today that the oversight board may force NYRA to raise the takeout, but VP Bill Nader says that won’t help.
He said raising takeout would increase revenues for on-track betting, which is only 15 percent of sales, but would cut into the bulk of NYRA's business, the betting off-track.The standard argument is that lowering takeout increases handle over the long run and vice versa, but a consultant hired by the state’s competing OTB’s concluded that the last round of reductions instituted in 2001 cost the industry $81 million, including cutting NYRA's revenues by at least $20 million.
"If it's aimed at helping NYRA, it would do just the opposite," he said.
As if we needed to see further signs of NYRA’s desperation, the Times-Union also reports that the association has laid off cleaning personnel (great) and is considering closing the Aqueduct grandstand. The latter is not a new idea; in fact, NYRA tried it – it must be 20-25 years ago – when people actually still came to the track. The crowd was jammed into the clubhouse; it was a big back page story in the NY Post and was reversed upon public outcry. I doubt that they’d meet similar opposition now. Except from me and the seagulls.