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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bruno Backs Down....A Bit

- Joe Bruno has started to back off in the franchise negotiations; that according to Tom Precious, reporting for Bloodhorse.com, who writes that Bruno’s negotiators in closed-door talks had suddenly dropped several demands. The Senate Majority Leader is no longer insisting that NYRA's simulcast be spun off to another operator, nor that top executives resign.

Apparently, the pressure is being turned up by Bruno's Saratoga constituency. Precious reports of word that hotel bookings for the summer are down, and that board member and local businessman Charles Wait, described as a "longtime Bruno supporter," was going to take out a full page ad in the Sarartogian. Negotiators said talk of an ad targeting Bruno in his district helped move along the sides on some stalled issues.

However, the 30-year term and the makeup of the NYRA board remain issues, and, though Bruno said on the Capitol OTB Tv station that “Practically speaking, it’s a done deal," [DRF] Hayward said afterwards that “There are a number of very substantial issues that are not close to being resolved." The Form reports that Bruno has gone to 20 years from his previous stance of 15. But I believe that NYRA will hold firm to their position that 30 years is fair in exchange for the valuable land it insists it owns. Seems to me that the composition of the board is a more negotiable issue. Though I know NYRA feels strongly about that as well, I'd think that Bruno has to get something out of the deal, as a face saver if nothing else.

As far as the temporary extension goes, the Form finally settled on a headline of NYRA: Aqueduct staying open no sure thing, its second downgrade from its original declaration that an extension was approved. Different reports convey varying senses of how dire the situation is. My best understanding is this, and correct me if I'm wrong: NYRA feels that it needs a license from the Racing and Wagering Board in order for their land claim to definitively remain intact after Dec 31. The Board, in deciding that it was not up to them, effectively denied them that license; and though one might take its action as a tacit approval of the extension given the fact that it was agreed to by the Oversight Board which the RWB says has authority, NYRA is unwilling to commit at this time. And they won't unless and until it receives assurances from its lawyers that it poses no threat to their legal position.

NYRA officials said on Saturday afternoon that they were meeting with officials of the oversight board – which was created in 2005 to monitor NYRA’s operations – to work on language in the temporary agreement that would protect NYRA’s rights to owning Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. [DRF]
If they soon announce that they cannot go along, then the heat turns up on Bruno as the deadline ticks down.

6 Comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you are right Alan, but why would NYRA expect that the RWB was going to help them in their case against the state?

It was a pretty stupid move on their part.

Mutaman said...

Alan, thanks for the continued outstanding reporting on this issue. But I really don't understand this fellow Bruno. What's his motivation? It seemed pretty clear he would fold from the beginning of this absurd affair
and now he's got prominent Saratoga Republicans ready to take out newspaper ads against him? And people up in Saratoga actually believe his actions have had a negative impact on 2008 tourism? I often fail to understand politicians but Bruno's actions really have me baffled. What did he think he was gaining by getting involved in all this? What am I missing here?

Anonymous said...

Your analysis sounds plausible to me. If NYRA is just managing racing under the auspices of the Oversight Board, then by what right is the Oversight Board using the land? NYRA is probably willing to grant permission for use of the land, but the Oversight Board may be hesitant to ask for it, for fear of solidifying NYRA's land claim.

The frustrating thing is that, even if everything works out, NYS taxpayers will end up footing a lot of legal bills relating to a temporary extension that wouldn't have been necessary if the franchise had been awarded on a timely basis.

It's also indicative of the political, legal, and financial quagmire in which NYRA has been operating in recent years. Is it any wonder NYRA is struggling financially? The economics of racing are bad enough without race track management having to call lawyers and lobbyists to vet every decision.

BitPlayer

Anonymous said...

It's a chicken and the egg thing:

Is the political machinations surrounding racing in New York State a result of NYRA or a contributing factor to NYRA?

alan said...

>>What did he think he was gaining by getting involved in all this? What am I missing here?

Hard to say. I think a lot of it is just his animosity with Spitzer. Perhaps he was trying to benefit someone in particular with the simulcasting rights. But I agree that it seemed clear all along that he was painting himself into a corner.

>>...why would NYRA expect that the RWB was going to help them in their case against the state?

I'd guess that NYRA's lawyers decided that a license from the Board was the clearest way to protect its rights.

>>The frustrating thing is that, even if everything works out, NYS taxpayers will end up footing a lot of legal bills relating to a temporary extension that wouldn't have been necessary if the franchise had been awarded on a timely basis.

That's for sure, and that's only a small fraction of the legal expenses billed to the taxpayers; not to mention the time and money devoted to committees and hearings that ultimately added up to a whole lot of nothing.

Teresa said...

I just finished reading the article in a New Yorker from a few weeks ago about Eliot Spitzer, which depicts New York politics and political relationships in gruesome detail.

Makes Tammany Hall look like a transparent, legitimate operation.

And it's a great read--I highly recommend it.