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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Final Means Final

- The final - and this time, I mean, final - bids from the New York franchise seekers are due today. Excelsior's bid was said to be "status quo" by a spokesperson; and NYRA's is said to be "virtually unchanged" from whatever they proposed in the first place, which, aside from references to their experience running the tracks, has never really been clearly articulated. Capital Play added a major New York City real estate developer, and could announce another partner today; and they also revealed plans to build a $30 million Polytrack training facility upstate. This is all according to the Albany Times Union.

And the Empire That Won't Go Away is threatening a new "path forward" that would mix and match from among the bidding teams to find the best components of each to run things. If that's the case, it presumably would include nothing from Empire. The Saratogian reports that Capital Play met with Empire to discuss ideas without creating a formal alliance. That seems a somewhat natural alliance considering that they are the two bidders that are proposing takeout increases; and a massive one in the case of Capital Play. All four bidders will be present at today's conference at the Albany Law School, so perhaps we'll have some fireworks to discuss tomorrow.

But at this point, especially with NYRA enjoying a nearly perfect Saratoga meeting thus far (as I [kinda] predicted way back in January), I think a lot of people will be quite surprised if Charles Hayward isn't up at the podium with the governor on September 4, when Spitzer is expected to announce his decision. And who, really, would have believed that just a year ago?

The fallout over Andrew Cuomo's report on the Spitzer staff's use of the State Police to embarrass Joe Bruno goes on, and for those of you interested, this is an excellent summary of the events, people, and investigations promised and threatened, from the Journal News website. A potential investigation by Albany County DA David Soares, which would involve potential criminal charges should it go forward, would appear to be the most ominous of the possible inquiries. Soares brought charges against fellow Democrat Alan Hevesi that led to his resignation as the state's Comptroller.

The New York Post is on a tabloid rampage against Spitzer with this story, and readers of the Wall Street Journal may want to take note of Rupert Murdoch's brand of journalism despite whatever protections have been written into his purchase agreement with Dow Jones. But having said that, the paper's exclusive story regarding possible damaging emails from private blackberries that were not submitted to Cuomo was picked up by the New York Times today. And the Post has also suggested that the Albany Times Union and reporter James Odato, whose reports on the franchise situation I often link to here, may have attempted to provide cover to Spitzer's aides by filing Freedom of Information requests regarding Bruno's travel. It was the false pretext of such requests by which those aides compelled the State Police to compile and create the reports used to embarrass the Senate Majority Leader.

- And in West Virginia, the final, and perhaps most hotly contested of the four local table games referendums will take place in Kanawha County on Saturday. With the conservative West Virginia Family Foundation having dropped a federal lawsuit against the expansion, they can devote their full energies to defeating the proposal. Early voting has already attracted 6600 ballots, said to be more than all the early ballots cast in the other three votes combined. While churches are providing turnout for the 'no' vote, labor groups are actively campaigning for the games. It's getting personal and nasty. And, of course, religious.

One Cross Lanes resident told police that someone blasted his "Vote No" sign with a shotgun. The First Baptist Church of St. Albans reported the swiping of its antigambling banner from its front porch.

Table games supporters have cried foul over the role religious groups have played on the other side. A billboard rented in Charleston, which has God urging voters to reject the referendum, has been for them a case in point. [Herald-Dispatch.com]

8 Comments:

God said...

Leave me the hell out of this. I'm busy trying to screw the Cubs, Mets, Jets, Red Sox, Bills, Knicks (although they don't need too much help). I don't have enough time to weigh in on some table games in West Virginia. I've always been a fan of rolling the bones.

Michael said...

Where do you fall on all of this Alan? Are you happy with NYRA in control of racing for another 20 years or did the corruption and bankruption (is that a word?) sour you?

Does one good meet at Saratoga really wipe away years of problems? Feel free to email if you don't want to post a reply.

alan said...

Michael - Nice try trying to get a definitive endorsement out of me! :) But I will say that the whole corruption scandal basically involved low-level employees cheating on their taxes, and an opportunity for some politicians to pick on an easy target; and that the "bankruption" was more of a function of the structure of racing in the state (as in, the OTB's) than the fault of NYRA. Not to say that NYRA is totally blameless. So I'll say that while I would have much preferred to see NYRA articulate an imaginative vision for the future rather than merely relying on their land claim and experience running the tracks, that, given the quality of the competition, I wouldn't be unhappy with NYRA remaining in control. And I'd also point out that this is hardly a one good meet at Saratoga - I think that's a rule with hardly an exception I can recall.

Anonymous said...

Yikes.

I could be mistaken, but the greater issue with the corruption is knowledge and control. Certain NYRA executives knew that the “low-level employees” were cheating on their taxes and condoned the practice. Other NYRA executives, including the Board of Trustees, should have asked questions and taken measures after the knowledge was internally commonplace. They didn’t.

It’s easy to pile on, but NYRA declined to undertake off-track betting in 1970 because it was unseemly. It was a bad business decision that New York has been living with since. Their lack of vision is now apparent. Unfortunately, their bid documents illustrate this continued lack of vision. Fortunately for them, no one else seems to have it.

alan said...

>>Yikes.

You make a fair point, and a good one about the NYRA's executive's knowledge and control. I admittedly glossed over that, but even so, my point was and remains that in my opinion, the corruption involved was no more heinous than say, the Comptroller of New York using state employees to chauffeur his wife around, or the Governor of New York State having knowledge of his staff using the State Police to attack a political rival. Of course, we don't yet know if Spitzer had that knowledge, but he's the man in charge, and both he and Hevesi, NYRA's main protagonists, have both been involved in behavior that makes their politically convenient invective against NYRA seem pretty hypocritical in retrospect.

Yikes! Didn't mean to ramble on that long.

But I don't know that I agree with you that the present NYRA should be held accountable for what happened with OTB some 37 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Is NYRA still partnered with Exclesior for the casino side of the operation? I did not see that reiterated in any of the stories or your posts. As for the Steamroller, who woulda thunk he would try to reprise Nixon's role in this farce? "What did he know and when did he know it?" Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. I think NYRA is the right choice to continue the racing franchise with Excelsior on the casino side. Let's hope that the Steamroller isn't steamrolled in some other direction at the last minute. /S/Green Mtn Punter

alan said...

>>Is NYRA still partnered with Exclesior for the casino side of the operation?

There's never been anything official on such a partnership. Only word leaking out of the governor's office. In fact, NYRA has stated that they are not interested in a partnership.

Michael said...

This NYRA franchise debate has admitadly not been my thing since it's not taking place in Ky, but I guess if I were to boil it down to something very simple... it looks like NYRA is going to get it because they're the lesser of 3 evils and haven't done THAT BAD of a job... is that about it? Doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement to me.

It appears to me like NYRA has a sense of entitlement about the franchise and if that's the case, can we really expect changes and improvements with NY racing over the next 20 years?

For some reason I don't see reduced takeouts and other innovative ideas on the horizon for racing in the empire state.

/rant