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Friday, December 14, 2007

Three Four Five Men In a Room

- The Head Chef just called from the Spitzer's Manhattan residence. Nah, I don't like to namedrop and brag or anything, eh? You may recall that she got hired to work on the catering staff for what we believe was a fundraiser for the Governor a couple of weeks ago. Today, it's a luncheon held by Ms. Spitzer (try saying that ten times fast). I told her to see if they have any Seabiscuit posters hanging on the wall, thinking that perhaps the Governor is a closet degenerate who just pretends to not care all that much about the sport.

Mr. Spitzer isn't there, but he might as well have flown down on a state helicopter for lunch for all the good his being in Albany is doing at this time. Yesterday's special Senate session was so uneventful that it didn't even merit a separate story in the NY Times; merely a paragraph in its Metro Briefing section. The Senate did grant raises to state judges, but Senate officials privately acknowledged that the move was made largely to antagonize Democrats. [NY Times]

The chamber did actually address an issue that could eventually effect the racing franchise; Matt Hegarty of the Form seems to be only reporter who noticed that they passed the bill giving racino owners a larger share of the revenues from slot machines at the expense of horsemen and the state's education fund. That is the measure that Vernon and Tioga Downs owner Jeff Gural is insisting upon lest he shutter his tracks; but the Assembly likely will not be convening to take that, or any other matter up. (And a sign posted at Vernon this morning announces that the barns will close as of Monday; it blames the closure on Joe Faraldo, whose harness horsemen's group opposes the bill.) If passed and signed into law, the measure would make the Aqueduct racino that much more lucrative, whoever will be running it.

Negotiations continue behind the scenes on the franchise, but with the legislature all but certain to be done for the year, any agreement will have to be in the form of a "handshake" deal to keep racing going until it can be formally ratified once lawmakers return on January 9. After taking some hits from Senator Bruno, who has clearly been trying to shift the blame for any potential shutdown on the other parties, Spitzer's office fought back to pin the responsibility for any stoppage on Bruno. Spitzer's budget director Paul Francis figuratively put Charlie Hayward in "the room," increasing its occupancy from the usual three to four, and thereby further isolating the Senate Majority Leader.

“In the last few days, we’ve begun to see serious movement and real progress, but the Senate is still holding onto positions that would make it impossible for a deal by year end.."
“If there is no four-way deal, there is a real risk racing will cease on Jan. 1, which will be very damaging to the industry," said Francis, who is negotiating along with Patrick Foye and Richard Rifkin on behalf of Spitzer with legislative aides. “We need to have the Senate move closer to the position of the other three parties for a four-way deal." [Bloodhorse]
James Odato, writing in the Albany Times-Union, puts the number at five, including the Oversight Board which would, in theory, take over racing operations should no deal be reached by Dec 31. But either way, despite Sheldon Silver's intransigence and disinterest, as well as his opposition to VLT's at Belmont aside, it's Bruno who remains the obstacle, with the other parties in agreement on the basics.
A major sticking point involves simulcasting. The Senate has been insisting on taking the lucrative simulcasting business away from NYRA and awarding it to an outside company. It has not publicly revealed who should get the contract. The Spitzer administration considers the Senate position a poison pill that will prevent a final deal.

“NYRA needs to keep that," a state official said.

Also unresolved is the insistence by Bruno that the NYRA board be dissolved and replaced by a new slate of directors. Bruno has said NYRA's many problems over the years require a new team be brought on to run things.

“It’s just not going to happen. They are NYRA," said a source who has been involved in the lengthy talks in Albany the week of Dec. 9. [Bloodhorse]
(The accounts on are, as usual, written by Tom Precious, the State Capitol correspondent for the Buffalo News who continues his outstanding work reporting on the matter.) The length of the franchise extension, and the nature of a new public agency to oversee NYRA remain issues as well.


Anonymous said...

Alan -

Did you see the following posting from the New York Daily News Blog?

December 13, 2007

Late entry from Capital Play

A company bidding to take over management of thoroughbred racing in New York has shared with the Daily News its latest offer, which focuses only on Aqueduct Race Track in Queens.

Capital Play is offering to split management of the down-at-the-heels facility with its current operator, the New York Racing Association. NYRA would remain in charge of staging the races, while Capital Play would take over business operations, including marketing, facilities, concessions, corporate sponsorships, real estate development and relations with OTBs and other tracks.

The international consortium, which includes Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun, Australia-based Victoria Racing Club and America’s own Extell Development Co., would pay $125 million for a 49-year lease including development rights and paramutuel and simulcast revenues.

It would also pay to build a “racino” with 4,500 video lottery terminals to be managed by Mohegan Sun and develop the Queens property as a destination resort with restaurants, hotels, shopping and other attractions.

“We’ve put this on the table,” Capital Play President Karl O’Farrell told the News. “We think it should be seriously considered. It’s not nonsense. It’s real money.”

He noted that the $125 million up-front payment would cover half the cost of bailing NYRA out of bankruptcy

Anonymous said...

I am guessing Capital Play would get the simulcasting and any off track entities merged into the organization formerly known as NYRA under the Bruno plan.

They would also run the VLTs at Belmont.

The NYRA board would be replaced by 15 or so disinterested political appointees with zero knowledge of horse racing, but Getnick will keep their consulting gig to keep Spitzer on board.

But of course, NYRA will then declare the land their own and barricade the doors with private security and the horses will begin to starve.

Jeff Perlee will release a shrill statement citing NYRA's cruel treatment toward the horses as another reason they should be granted the right to run Saratoga, and Bruno will of course concur.

Silver will release a statement proposing that the Belmont and Big A meets be moved to Finger Lakes because it will be great for the suffering upstate economy.

Stronarch will then volunteer to run the Belmont at Gulfstream if the FLA legislature will increase his meet through Labor Day.

On June 7th the NYRA Board of Trustees are shocked and saddened to find the gates closed when they show up dressed to then nine for Belmont Stakes Day.

Dinny Phipps states that none of them were aware of the closing since the lone notification was sent via something called email, something with which the trustees are unfamiliar.

In August a trojan horse rolls up to the union avenue gate to Saratoga, and a joint task force of Jeff Perlee and Capital Play reps emerge to break through the lines and start construction of the beautiful fence.

In October Nassua County takes possession of 2/3 of Belmont due to unpaid taxes and the foundation for the new beautiful court house is layed.

In November, the Port Authority takes possession of the Big A and the foundation for Terminal F is layed.

In February 2008, a search party is sent out to find the leading trainer of the Finger Lakes winter meet, Gary Contessa, who has gone missing after trying to saddle all of his 11 horses in a 10,000 NY Bred maiden claimer, won of course by the only other entrant, a shipper from Anthony Dutrow first off the claim.

And around and around we go....

Anonymous said...

Posted today 12/14/07 on Steve Crist on his blog at :

"More recently, several people (including a member of NYRA's board of trustees) have come up to me at the track and shown me little spreadsheet programs they've written and installed on their PDA's that do the same thing with A-B-C selections for pick fours."

And you don't understand why Bruno wants to replace NYRA's Board? Stop the insanity now, finally pls can we get rid of NYRA?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what offends Anonymous. That a NYRA Trustee would go to the track? That he owns a PDA? That he knows how to use a spreadsheet program? That he bets the Pick Four?

I do understand why Bruno wants to replace the NYRA Board. He has told us. He favors a new system in which suitors to lobby him for positions on the board that oversees racing.


jk said...

Albany's specialty is nothing done. NYRA's hand will be forced to move ahead on the land claim.

I am looking forward to moving into my new condo at Belmont Estates.

Bruno does not care about shutting down racing in January. His deadline is July when the Spa opens.

Anonymous said...

I have always felt there is a conflict of interest when track management is wagering and moreso entering horses they own.

Do not see how you can overcome this, but it always has bothered me especially when I see races written for horses owned by board members.

But to use this as another indictment of NYRA is plain foolish, it happens at every track in the nation.

I was at Pike's Peak Racetrack(now Arapaho Downs) one year and the leading owner was the track owner.

Stronarch is routinely a leading owner at Gulfstream.

And most of them wager too.

If they did not love all aspects of the game they would not be involved.

I would rather have a few of these conflicts than a board made up of politcal hacks that could not find their way to Belmont without a GPS system.

alan said...

>>And around and around we go....

Ha, that's hilarious! The only comment I have is that Silver doesn't care about the upstate economy, only that of his lower Manhattan constituency. So he'd probably want to build a racetrack at Ground Zero.

Re: Capital Play's proposal - Some interesting things here, and the up front money could be tempting to the state. But it still rings of hypocrisy to me that they'd be willing to split management with NYRA after all the venomous things they've been saying about it

jk - A gloomy view, and I'd still personally be surprised if it gets to that point, but who the hell knows? And I think the citizens of Saratoga would lead an armed resurrection if there was a stoppage of any significant length.

And I too don't understand why the Anon commenter is all up in arms about Crist's note on the board member. Anon 8:47 put it perfectly: 'I would rather have a few of these conflicts than a board made up of politcal hacks that could not find their way to Belmont without a GPS system.'

Anonymous said...

I share Alan's frustration and that of many other loyal NY racing owners, fans, and employees at the snail's pace of progress in finalizing even an interim agreement to keep racing going after the end of the year. Politically, there's enough blame to go around, it's not as if any of us didn't realize that ultimately NY racing's fate is held hostage by the pols in their game of high stakes Texas Hold 'Em. Those guys love toplay poker, they love the thrill of holding out, or bluffing, and then going "all in", but only when they think their little game of "chicken" and blame gaming has downside political consequences with the "sheeple", er, I mean "people". I think most of us agree that whatever the outcome, it will mainly be a success to the extent that the next NYRA board isn't stacked with a bunch of political hacks interested only in further feathering the nests of the pols who planted them. We are all fed up with this hat-in-hand, kiss ass relationship that racing is forced to have with the Albany pols, and the total frustration in knowing that we have no choice but to endure it. The best thing you can do is call your Assemblyman, Senator-esp if it's Joe Bruno- and even the Gov, and demand action now. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Easy Green Mtn., your support for NYRA is surely undying, but it is certainly misplaced. This is not the group that will enable racing in NY to exist to the best of its ability. This is just the group that everyone knows, and apparently is afraid to send down the river. Corruption is a part of the NYRA, and moving forward it and they should be unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

Alan, good catch on the Silver comment, you are correct he would never demand something positive for upstate.

How about building a new track on the platform above the West Side Railyards?

They could use the High Line as a gallop, and after they evict those damn carraige horses they could use those barns for the stables.

Trainers could ship in from Belmont (the Queens training complex next to the new court house) via the West Side extension of the LIRR.

Where we stop nobody knows...