- This is certainly a pivotal moment as this years-long drama nears its conclusion - perhaps. I suppose that depends in part on whether NYRA accepts or rejects the Oversight Board's extension offer. If it accepts, then we're likely looking at continued racing, and continued closed-door negotiations that could theoretically drag out for months. After all, the extension, as currently written, would not end until "the selection by Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the legislature of a new franchise operator."
But if they reject the proposal, and if the Oversight Board affirms their intention to find another operator, then we could be looking at New York racing at the brink. Indeed, Michael Gormsley reports for the AP that the Board has authorized chairwoman Carole Stone to start negotiating to continue racing at Aqueduct.
If NYRA can’t or won’t continue to run racing after its franchise expires at the end of the year, then board Chairwoman Carole Stone is authorized to negotiate with others, including NYRA’s competitors. They are Capital Play, Empire Racing, and Excelsior Racing.Oh man. Do you really think that the state would have Ms. Stone arrange to bring one of those entities in? Can you picture the NYRA security guards at Aqueduct physically turning Jeff Perlee and Karl O'Farrell away on Jan 1?
It's not just Spitzer who has backed down from a judicial confrontation over the land issue. Pataki did so in December, 2005, coming through with a $30 million package, thereby forestalling a potential showdown in bankruptcy court. NYRA and Charles Hayward have seemed to gain confidence in their position since that time, while the state has continued to wobble. If NYRA truly believes that the issue will be decided in their favor, then why wouldn't it reject the offer outright and make it clear that they'll be in court on January 1, if they can find a judge somewhere. With all the other parties in favor of the MOU, and Bruno making demands that are unacceptable to NYRA and just plain unreasonable in my opinion, the pressure would come down squarely on the Senate Majority Leader to give in.
But if NYRA were to agree to the extension as is, without a definitive end date, I think it takes the heat off Bruno. Without any immediate threat of NYRA running to court to enforce the land claim in the face of an imminent threat (PERLEE AT FIVE O'CLOCK!), Bruno could harden his position and even put the onus on NYRA to give in on important points. So I'd be surprised if NYRA accepts the offer as is; it seems to me that it could diminish their most powerful weapon. I think they'll either insist on a hard deadline in the not too distant future, or reject the extension offer outright.