"NYRA's current cash position will not allow us to make it through the entire Belmont Park race meet." And so, in a press release issued late on Monday afternoon, Charles Hayward and NYRA made official what's been widely presumed ever since Tom Precious reported on the worst case scenario presented to the NYRA board on April 30. That scenario became reality when the proposed $17 million loan to NYRA went by the boards. Basically, NYRA wanted to use money raised by via bonds (from the $250 million issue for the construction of the Aqueduct racino), ostensibly to pay for past and present capital expenditures, for its operating expenses, and the plan therefore did not pass muster with tax and bond counsels.
I'm told of active efforts in the governor's office to come up with an alternate plan; but time is obviously of the essence. Hayward told Jerry Bossert: "This week will be critical.....We will have to put out formal notices and make plans." [NY Daily News]
Well? Here we are, around two and a half weeks before the Belmont Stakes, and now that day is being mentioned as being possibly the last day of racing. Oh, man. How exactly did we get here? A long, twisted story of course, but you could say it started the day in 1971 that the first OTB parlors opened in New York City. I had to laugh when I read NYC OTB Chairman Sandy Frucher saying: "NYRA's fate and our fate seem to be appropriately entwined. " I'm sure that he did not intend the irony and profundity that is obvious to those of us who have followed or in some fashion participated in the sport here over the last four decades.
I continue to maintain that Saratoga will open as scheduled on July 23. There's a lot of money at stake, and there are people involved in the process in Albany who have various political and personal motives to get this, as well as VLT's and OTB, done; maybe a couple of them actually care about racing. But I don't think that anyone can be confident at this very point in time that there will not be an interruption before then. NYRA continues to be a hot political potato, and, in this election year, no legislator wants to be on the wrong side of a negative ad concerning a bailout to a so-called "corrupt" entity, which, some would have us believe, ineptly squandered away the $105 million it received with its 2008 franchise award. I would imagine that by now, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is sitting on some information that he's learned from his investigation of that matter which could enlighten some of his former colleagues in the legislature as to how financially fruitless NYRA's situation is. However, facing a tough election challenge in November, I'm sure he'll release his findings at a time and in a context which serves him best.
And then there's stuff like this, from Jim Odato of the Times Union:
A senior aide to the governor said it would be unpalatable to bail out NYRA, and asked how the administration can send money to a thoroughbred industry that caters to wealthy horse owners while closing parks and reducing aid to schools and hospitals.Of course, you and I know that those "wealthy horse owners" can pick up and send their horses elsewhere, and that it's the thousands of less privileged folks who get up before dawn and work for a living who would be joining others on the unemployment lines. And that those owners who have the means to ship out don't have to go very far this spring and summer to find purses which are far richer than what they've been running for here. They might even get comfortable and not come back if and when racing resumes.
We all know how dire the budget situation is with the $9.2 billion deficit that lawmakers don't seem even close to solving with the legally-required balanced budget now seven weeks overdue. But the state does have certain obligations; and just as the governor is somehow and reluctantly finding the money to include contractual raises for union workers in his latest emergency budget extender, the state must find a way to meet its written obligations to fund NYRA in the wake of its shocking incompetence in naming a racino operator for Aqueduct. Of course, the courts had to step in to compel Paterson to not only include the raises but to cancel his threatened furloughs, and perhaps the racing industry will be forced to go that route as well.