- More details are coming out about Excelsior's winning bid for the NY franchise, and it seems ironic that the state committee went along with the non-profit racing/for-profit casino model that was being espoused by NYRA. But the incumbent operator could not offer the same guarantees of money that the other two did. They could not offer lease payments, as that would undermine their position that they own the land. Actually, according to the Albany Times-Union, their offers of payments based on the racinos and for capital improvements actually exceeded those of their rivals - by a wide margin regarding the latter, but the committee said it could not highly rate NYRA's commitments since they were not guaranteed.
Excelsior succeeded with its promise of $104 million in upgrades to the three tracks, compared to $59.2 million by Empire. It also guaranteed to make pension payments for track workers -- a liability now at $54.5 million and growing as NYRA works out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.- In the NY Daily News' Daily Politics blog, writer Bill Hammond suggests that Eliot Spitzer has put himself, and perhaps Excelsior, in a touchy position by having accepted discounted private jet rides from Excelsior principal and Spitzer campaign donor Richard Fields:
Does he ignore the panel's recommendation, or does he support giving a lucrative contract to a someone who loaned him a Gulfstream and pumped more than $200,000 into his campaign account?- Empire's CEO Jeff Perlee told the Saratogian:
'We handily won integrity, racing experience and there was no mention here of economic development, which is a major component of our plan. Also, Senator Bruno becomes very important here, particularly when you look at operational experience. Will Senator Bruno be a party to turning Saratoga over to a dog track operator?'We also read another representative of Empire refer to Excelsior as a "dog track operator" in an Associated Press story last night. A look at the key figures behind Excelsior reveal no obvious connections to dog racing, though it's entirely possible that someone connected with the group has such an association. Nonetheless, I think it's fair to say that that characterization would be an exaggeration even if that was the case.
But if you tell people something enough times, they come to believe it; that's part of what PR is all about. The AP story told us that the bulk of [Excelsior's] experience....is in harness racing and greyhound racing. In the Saratogian story, reporter Paul Post, who writes regularly of racing matters and should know better, wrote that Excelsior runs two Chicago harness tracks.
The fact is that William and John Johnston, referred to as "advisors" to Excelsior in the Times Union piece, own and operate Mayfield and Balmoral Park, two Chicago harness tracks. That hardly means that Excelsior "runs" them or is a harness track "operator." No more so than the presence of Delaware North as an investor in Empire makes the latter a "dog track operator," even though Delaware North is the owner of Wheeling Island Race Track, a greyhound track and racino located in West Virginia.