- Tom Precious, who works for the Buffalo News and provides reports on the New York franchise situation for Bloodhorse.com, obviously has a mole with inside knowledge of the proceedings, as he has been the first to break major developments such as the proposed closing of Aqueduct. Now, he confirms what has long been suspected - that the Spitzer administration has "floated a plan" for NYRA and Excelsior to run racing and slots respectively. The proposal, floated in a private meeting by aides to the New York governor and negotiators from the Legislature, includes NYRA giving up its land claims to the three tracks.
The report claims that Excelsior was the only bidder willing to work with NYRA. I suppose those accusations we heard from Empire a couple of weeks ago about the two having colluded aren't going anywhere, and that wouldn't be the first time that an assertion made by the group fades away quietly.
There are also apparently rumors that Spitzer will try and ram a deal through the Legislature before it adjourns on June 21, but Precious reports that that scenario is "unlikely." The alternative to this deal should it not be accepted by lawmakers could be a complete do-over (oh man...), which would naturally involve a short-term extension for NYRA.
The development comes after a day on which Empire held a news conference to criticize the concept of splitting the racing and VLT operations into two.
“We can’t allow these VLTs to be put in the hands of some out-of-state casino interest,” [Empire VP Dennis Brida] said. “Separating it out and auctioning it off to a gaming operator … is not only unfair, it’s wrong. We don’t want to hand them a 20-year franchise and then be begging at their feet for the scraps that are left over. [Thoroughbred Times]Empire related the concept to the failed OTB model in which the off-track corporation competes with and cannibalizes the live product. Don’t repeat the OTB mistake, their press release pleads. That may be good PR, but it seems to me that it doesn't apply here. Such an arrangement between NYRA and Excelsior would presumably be complimentary rather than competitive, and the revenue split will certainly be set by law.
Capital Play issued a release late in the day which trotted out the old accusations against NYRA, detailing all of its past transgressions, including the much-ridiculed "weight-gate" indictments. It includes some cheap shots utilizing old quotes from Spitzer and the disgraced former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, and a fresh dig regarding the poor attendance at the Belmont last weekend.
The two frustrated bidders, each of whom, according to Paul Post, writing for the Thoroughbred Times, have spent in excess of $3-million preparing their bids, are striving for the best sound bites here, but are missing a main point, probably because they know it will fall on deaf ears. And that is that NYRA simply didn't do the work that they did. Unlike the other bidders, their proposal lacked any kind of vision or coherent plan for the future, instead relying on repeatedly pointing out their own experience running the tracks. It seemed almost as if they didn't even put much effort into it, submitting a series of sloppy documents instead of slick brochures. Perhaps they felt that their claim to the land put them in a position in which they didn't need to devote much energy or time (and money) to the process. And they may have been right.