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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Notes - Dec 20

- Now that Wire to Wire is getting the ax from ESPN, wanna know what else is so important that they can't squeeze it in?

How about the Arena Football League? One day after announcing that the racing show would be cancelled, not only did ESPN trumpet a deal to carry AFL games, but they've actually taken a 10% stake in the league. "This isn't dating; this is getting married," [AFL commissioner David Baker] said on a conference call. "They are officially an AFL owner." [LA Times] And although a network exec "scoffed" at the idea that there could be a conflict of interest regarding news coverage choices on Sports Center, the spouse always gets priority, doesn't he/she?

Their sister network ABC will carry the AFL championship game on July 29.....one day after they carry the first Breeders Cup Challenge program from Saratoga. Good opportunity for them to use horse racing to promote their latest property; let's hope they don't have Tom Durkin call the races from New Orleans, where the game will be held.

A quote from an ESPN exec on the AFL website reads:

“We are committed to the Arena Football League and its exciting brand of football. We will help grow the league across all of our multimedia platforms. As the league grows, so will our business, and we see a bright future for us both.”
Hmmm, sound familiar? I bet they say that to everyone...

- I wanted to go back to a comment that Green Mtn Punter left a little while ago regarding the NY franchise bidding:
If the NY legislature in it's infinite wisdom does not reform these laws, or more likely "reforms" them just enough to look good to uninformed voters but in the end only to cause further problems, then what? All bids are withdrawn as a result of the contingencies not being satisfied and back to Square One?
Indeed, the RFP's called for the bidders to submit different bids for different legislative scenarios: massive changes in the law, moderate, or none. And one of the many things we do not know since the bids have STILL not been made public, is what, if anything, in each bidder's proposal, is contingent on what. In a Q&A in the Saratogian, Saratoga mayor Valerie Keehn makes the first reference to that issue that I've seen, though she doesn't really clear up much:
Q: Were the Bidders bound by the specifics of their bids?: (Note: The context of this question included my asking Mayor Keehn about the possibility of the winning bidder not getting racing reform legislation that could hinder future operations.)

A: 'There are components of their bids that I think they are bound to if they win the franchise. We talked a lot about legislation to fix some outdated laws and other problems. We considered that sweeping changes might not happen, so when we looked at the RFP's and made the selection, that was in the backs our minds.

'Certainly the legislature is going to craft a franchise law with the winning bidder. Not knowing what the law would be, we took their financial guarantees as just that. Guarantee means guarantee.'
From the sound of that, it seems to me as if the idea of separate proposals for separate scenarios has been separated from the process; and that whoever wins the franchise will be basically on their own to deal with Albany and try to get the best deal they can. And if they can't? Well then, 'guarantee means guarantee.'

- Mike over at Curb Your Enthusiasm tells of two-year old Minefield, the latest object of desire in Godolphin's obscene spending spree.

8 Comments:

Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan, you see Joe Bruno, being the old Albany fox that he is, is right about one thing: There will inevitably be some kind of grand compromise in the end, that is the legislative way. Not sure what Saratoga Springs Mayor Keehn meant by her comments in The Saratogian- you can be certain that all bids are contingent on some reform, otherwise you end up in NYRA's predicament all over again. Mayor Keehn sounds like the winning bidder is committed to a financial guarantee even if no reforms are enacted. I would say the chances of the bids being submitted without reform contingencies is slim to none. Despite all of the common sense reforms recommended by Friends of Empire Racing, er, ah, I mean Friends of NY Racing, and the several bidders for the franchise, in the end legislative bodies don't work on common sense. That is why the long range goal of the NY racing industry must be to remove the industry from the control of self-serving politicians and place it where it belongs, i.e., in the hands of those who are the NY racing industry, just like any other private enterprise.

Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan, further to my previous comment, it will be interesting to see if any of the bidders actually included a bid including the no reform scenario. If I were a bidder I would be tempted to put in my executive summary of this section: No Reform Assumption- what, are you crazy? No reform means another NYRA debacle! Get ready for another bailout!

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, four bidders submitted proposals. Three of the bidders submitted proposals for each of the three options, both with and without video lottery gaming at Belmont: no statutory change, moderate statutory change and moderate statutory change with OTB restructuring. Only one bidder, Capital Play Pty Ltd, submitted a single bid, moderate statutory changes with video lottery gaming at Belmont. This means Empire, Excelsior and NYRA must have submitted bids with no change in the law.

Contemporaneous reports from the Ad Hoc Committee's voting indicated that there were no real proposal changes between the three different options and that the Ad Hoc Committee simply considered bids with video lottery gaming at Aqueduct and bids with video lottery gaming at Aqueduct and Belmont.

Does that mean that no one cares whether the moderate law changes are enacted as long as the entity can be run on a for-profit basis? Hmmm ...

alan said...

I recall the events the same way, the the Aussies submitting for just the once scenario. Apparently the head of the company was in Albany last week trying to revive their bid. They claim that the others have undervalued the franchise by half.

I think that no one cares about the moderate law changes as log as the entity can have casinos at Aqueduct and Belmont.

Late Scratch said...

Continuing this string, I believe Capital Play submitted under option 2B which meant they cared only if moderate changes were made. While we don't know the real preferences of the other bidders, apparently they felt they had to touch them all just to be safe.

But much of the RFP process, which was pretty much doomed from the start, will soon be moot (10 days and counting). Governor Spitzer may very well empower his own committee to evaluate these and other potential bidders. What I think got lost in the RFP process is whether this is an auction or a true desire to do the best for NY racing as GMP alluded to in an earlier post. At an auction, the winner is the highest bidder; an RFP process is used when money is only one factor and must be weighted accordingly in the best interests of the matter at hand.

alan said...

Well, it was originally an RFP process, but first of all, indications were that the extra money proposed by Excelsior to pay down NYRA's pension obligations and for the Belmont racino were important factors in their slim margin of victory. Then Empire said that they would increase thier offer, and now Capital Play coming back with promises of even more money. So now it's feeling more like an auction.

And I think that the idea that the new administration could make the whole process moot has been known all along; and that's why they initially tried to rush the process along.

Anonymous said...

How exactly was the process rushed? The Ad Hoc Committee was formed on November 15, 2005, held four public hearings, issued a RFP in July, got responses back in August and didn't make a decision until November. They still haven't issued their report.

Remember, the Ad Hoc Committee organized because the State Legislature (Not Governor Pataki, but the State Senate and State Assembly) moved the date for their establishment from no sooner than December 1, 2006 to no later than December 1, 2005. See, Chapter 354, Laws of 2005. Could you believe that the original statute would have had them barely created at this point in time?

I find it curious that people think Governor-elect Spitzer would start over. The Ad Hoc Committee has only three Executive appointments. Even if Governor Spitzer replaced Patrick Barrett, Bernadette Castro and Fredric Newman, the new three would still be outvoted 6-3. Remember, Mr. Silver put two assemblymembers, including the Chairma of the Assembly Racing Committee, on the Ad Hoc Committee. Think they want a do over?

alan said...

>>How exactly was the process rushed?

I said that they initailly tried to rush the process along. The bids were originally due on August 15, and the decision on Sept 15. I'll refer you back to this post.

I do believe that the decision by the Ad Hoc Committee will carry significant weight and that it won't be a total do-over. But not binding means just that, especially in New York politics. What happens if Bruno is forced to relinquish his position as Majority Leader?