- "New York Racing Association is the poster child for mismanagement and corruption," said Alan Hevesi, the state's Democratic Comptroller in June 2005. "NYRA takes the cake....This is the worst agency of all." Hevesi has been one of NYRA's most severe critics going back several years. And though he made it clear at the time of the above statements that he was talking about past management, and that the new team was working to clean up the mess, Hevesi was always quick to score political points by taking the opportunity to kick the easy and convenient target that NYRA had made itself. So one wouldn't think that he would now become the first prominent politician in the state to come to NYRA's defense in their current standoff with the state.
But the delay by the Lottery Division in approving NYRA's contract with MGM and allowing construction of the Aqueduct casino to commence is so outrageous, and such an obvious and egregious abuse of political power, that Hevesi blasted the agency in a letter obtained by Bloodhorse.com in an excellent bit of reporting.
"It is not in the best interests of the state's taxpayers or the future of Thoroughbred racing in New York, or the state's finances, to create the appearance that the state is deliberately forcing the current franchisee to fail."Hevesi also made it clear that the political maneuvering is having an effect that goes far beyond horse racing, pointing out that the state budget includes revenue based on an October 2007 opening of the racino. "Delay in establishing this facility creates a substantial risk to the state's financial plan, potentially exacerbating the out-year gaps to be faced by a new executive, which my office already estimates could exceed $13 billion."
"Is there really an interest in forcing NYRA into bankruptcy? Is it in the interest of New York state to have this critically important asset (and industry) undervalued? Is it actually someone's intention to change the dynamic of what is purported to be an open and fair competitive process to select the next franchisee?"
The only other public figure I've seen criticize the delay is oversight board member Joseph Torani. I wonder where other Democrats are on the issue, considering the highly partisan atmosphere accompanying the party's expected takeover of the governor's mansion in January. And then there's the New York horsemen, who have aligned themselves with Empire Racing, NYRA's chief competitor for the franchise. Last month, they declined an appeal by NYRA to help them pressure the state to give approval. But is it really in their interest for NYRA to go into bankruptcy? Or to see further delays in the money that will fatten purses once the machines go online? Can they be sure that racing would continue uninterrupted should NYRA fail? Is Empire really prepared to smoothly take over the racing operation at the end of this year, or sooner? And if the horseman are so opposed to NYRA, do they really want to see a bankruptcy court decide the issue of who owns the land that the tracks sit on, a decision that could halt the entire process in its tracks?