Thoroughbred Racing and other opinions.
- Got a note from a reader who tells me, in an authoritative tone, that, this afternoon, NYRA signed a franchise extension "until April..." Stay tuned...
Maybe not. This was posted on the Daily Racing Form's web site at 6:00 p.m.NYRA no closer to a new dealBy MATT HEGARTYThe status of the New York Racing Association's franchise remained in limbo on Friday, 10 days before the expiration of its right to run racing at the state's three largest Thoroughbred tracks.Officials involved in the negotiations said Friday that little progress had been made on a 30-year extension to NYRA's franchise that is being sought by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and NYRA. The extension is supported by the Democrat-led assembly, but opposition to the plan is being headed by Joseph Bruno, the senate majority leader and a Republican. According to an official involved in the negotiations, representatives of the senate presented the state and NYRA with a new deal on Thursday night."There are still significant issues," said the official, who spoke Friday on the condition of anonymity.A spokesman for Bruno, Scott Reif, said that Bruno hoped to be involved in a negotiated agreement by the end of the year that would settle the franchise issue, even if the agreement were informal."All of our focus right now is on moving the process forward," Reif said. "We hope to get at least a handshake agreement before the end of the year, and then address that legislatively in January."A handshake agreement would allow NYRA to continue racing after Dec. 31 until the legislature could address a long-term solution when it comes back into session in mid-January. Any long-term deal would have to be approved by Spitzer, the assembly, and the senate. Neither the assembly nor the senate has any plans to return to session before the end of the year.According to officials, Bruno is opposed to the 30-year length of the extension and is seeking broad powers for a new agency that would run certain aspects of NYRA's business. Bruno is also seeking a reconstituted NYRA board. NYRA has balked at some of the demands.The lengthy negotiations are complicating a hearing scheduled for Dec. 27 in bankruptcy court. NYRA, which filed for bankruptcy late last year, is hoping to get approval for a financial reorganization plan that is based on the details of the 30-year franchise extension. Among other things, the extension would finally settle a long-standing ownership dispute between the state and NYRA by giving the state uncontested title to Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. But without the specific details of a long-term agreement in place, the judge would be unable to allow the financial reorganization plan to go forward.If the franchise expires without an agreement in place, state law gives the Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board the right to select a temporary operator for the three NYRA tracks. However, NYRA officials have said that they would seek to block any other operator from running the three tracks because of their ownership claim.NYRA's relationship with the oversight board changed significantly on Wednesday when Gov. Spitzer replaced the board's chairwoman, Carole Stone, with his own appointee. Stone was selected to chair the board when it was created in 2005 by Spitzer's predecessor, Gov. George Pataki, a Republican.Two days before Spitzer's appointment, the oversight board adopted a resolution allowing the chairperson to negotiate a deal with NYRA for a temporary extension of its franchise, without input or approval from other board members. The new chairman, Steven Newman, is expected to work closely with NYRA on a temporary extension if a long-term agreement is not in place.NYRA officials declined to comment on the selection of Newman, but several officials close to the negotiations said that the appointment strengthened NYRA's hand considerably. NYRA officials did not have a particularly strong relationship with Stone, who said after the meeting on Monday that she would find another operator for the tracks if NYRA declined to accept an extension.When asked to respond to the governor's move of replacing the chairwoman, Reif, Bruno's spokesman, said, "It's up to the governor to choose who the chairman is. That's his right."
The reader is sticking to the story, and says that it is coming from a reliable source. There's nothing in Hegarty's story to contradict it; in fact, he reports that the new chairperson is expected to work closely with NYRA on a temporary extension. We'll see.
I predicted way back in a comment that this would be settled with a hand shake and a kiss on the cheek in the middle of the night on 12/21, the last work day before Christmas. None of the parties want to be bothered next week, so it's now or never. Probably dotting the I's and crossing the T's. Needs to be in some written form since the francshise must be legally extended or NYRA ceases to exist. They could not operate on a verbal deal, nor should they.The April extension is interesting, Hayward has said repeatedly he could not accept a 90 days extension that would jeopardize the Wood. April appears a compromise on that front.4 more months filled with press releases and of course political contributions!!!!And around and around we go....
Is March 31st the end of a fiscal or budget year? If so, the NYRA operating racing until then makes sense. Thursday and Friday, the NYRA's Plan Supplement (the proofs of funding and state agreements showing that its plan will work), in bankruptcy court was essentially deemed to be inadequate by several parties in interest and creditors, so the NYRA could use someplace like bankruptcy court to keep hiding, while a tentative deal is discussed.
The franchise cannot be extended. It was a legislative grant of authority that cannot be extended administratively. That said, the only method for NYRA to be permitted to continue operation post-December 31, 2007 is through a traditional license granted by the New York State Racing & Wagering Board (which would be like Finger Lakes has) or through a "contract" with the New York State Non-Profit Racing Association Oversight Board. NYRA would cease receiving the legal protections of the "non-profit racing association" under the former theory - something I imagine they would not want.NYRA might have agreed to one of the scenarios; problem is, many parties other than NYRA also have to agree. NYRA alone is irrelevant.I would find it curious that they would agree to anything expiring in April: Charlie Hayward has been on the record that he'd prefer a shutdown now as opposed to just before the Wood Memorial. He's usually a straight shooter - was he speaking with forked tongue?
Alan source indicate extension "until April".I presume that would be through April 30, or at least through the Wood date.State fiscal year ends June 30 so no issue.Not surprised at all that NYRA's plan is deemed inadequate without the extension in place. How could it be anything but inadequate?It is my understanding that NYRA ceases to exist unless in possession of the "franchise" to operate these tracks. If it can not be extended administratively then I do not see how they can operate until the legislature convenes, although in Albany I guess anything is possible.If I am wrong and their by-laws read "license" then they can continue on a temporary license, but have always seen the term "franchise" used.In any case, I hope to spend my traditional New Years Day at the Big Cold A singing Happy Birthday to the horses accompanied by Sam The Bugler.The New Year will not be the same without the proper kick off.
If this report turns out to be true, and if, as the last commenter surmised, an extension runs through the Wood, imagine if there was a stoppage just weeks before the Belmont Stakes? Which side would that put the pressure on....as Country Star crushes the boys in the Derby and the Preakness? Seems it would be fitting for the whole saga to reach its climax with NY's biggest racing day at stake!
Hi Alan:Let's face it, NYRA is here to stay, so I think most of us are already expecting an announcement on that. Therefore, if the extension was just agreed to, then your blog is the one that broke the story, which is a good thing not just for 'Left at the Gate' but for blogging in general. Have a great Christmas.
Second anon comment is right on: Four more months of dueling press releases and, most importantly, keep those cards and letters coming with contributions to the ol' campaign coffers!"Christmas is for cops and kids", once famously said notorious, on-the-lam Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger. Close, Whitey, close, except in NY Christmas is apparently more for political hacks and kids. Sounds like a throwback to the days of Boss Tweed, or perhaps those days never left us to begin with? We should all be outraged that NY racing should be treated this way, like so much meat hanging for butcher to cut up. It's almost enough to make me lose my sorely tested sense of humor and Christmas cheer. /S/Green Mtn Punter