- Details are starting to emerge in the media about Spitzer's proposal to allow NYRA to remain as the operator of the New York tracks. The extension is to run for 30 years, as opposed to the 20 years that the groups were bidding for. I find that surprising given that Spitzer himself had questioned whether even the shorter term was too long.
According to Spitzer and NYRA officials, NYRA would be required to make changes to its board of directors in order to obtain the extension, as well as adopt policies that would dedicate funds from the casino-gambling operation toward improvements at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. In exchange for the extension, NYRA would also relinquish "any claims it may have to ownership rights of the tracks and facilities." [Daily Racing Form]It's not clear from these initial reports whether NYRA's surrender of their land claim will become effective immediately, or at the end of the 30 years. But either way, it would seem that the association used the claim as a bargaining chip to extend its existence - and to do so beyond the term originally imagined - and thus leave it to others that follow to deal with the implications of the state becoming the undisputed title holder of New York's tracks, an unsavory prospect to say the least.
No mention of closing Aqueduct, and the governor said that Belmont would be "contemplated" for slots of its own. Spitzer is to select an operator for the racinos within 60 days.
The recommendation will now go to the state legislature for approval. Reader Green Mtn Punter brought up a good point regarding Senator Bruno, and the possible conflicted scenario he now faces.
On the one hand his influential Saratoga constituents have endorsed NYRA for the franchise and on the other he is sniping at NYRA (and Spitzer) with the Getnick & Getnick sweetheart deal. My guess is that, in the end, this is mainly about having more leverage over Spitzer down the road as Joe would be foolish to buck the Saratoga business community and voters on making the NYRA franchise extension/ renewal happen.However, according to the Ithaca Journal, Bruno's initial reaction was skeptical, as I would imagine he would be towards virtually anything that comes out of the governor's mouth at this point.
"The governor's handling of the process to select a new horse racing franchise has had several false starts, and now has a questionable finish."We'll obviously be hearing much more from Bruno in the next couple of days.
Regarding the Getnick and Getnick deal and the NY Sun's reference to Neil Getnick as a Spitzer donor who stands to benefit from his firm's sweetheart NYRA deal, I had a chance to do some cursory research into the matter. This led me, not surprisingly, to Ben Liebman's Racing and Gaming program at Albany Law School. A report issued on industry political contributions in 2004-05 (pdf document) reveals that Getnick gave $1000 to Spitzer during that period (as opposed to $5,000 to Mark Green, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2006). The report also states that Getnick gave $600 to Spitzer in 2002. Neither of these contributions are going to get Getnick a night in the guest bedroom at the Executive Mansion. But I suppose we'll find out if Bruno has something more substantive than that to offer if his threatened investigation of the NYRA contract comes to fruition.
Charlie Hayward is to address the media at 2 PM, so I'll be back once we find out what he has to say, particularly about NYRA's surrendering of the land claim.