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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

National Spotlight, Local Scorn for NYRA

Three of the eight nationally televised programs from Saratoga will actually be on NBC, with the other five on Versus. The series will kick off on the big network on Saturday, with coverage of the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks, as well as the prior race.

Storylines will include a feature on John Velazquez who won the Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom, and last year, won the Coaching Club American Oaks aboard Devil May Care, the only filly to enter last year’s Kentucky Derby. There will also be a feature on the long, storied history of horse racing at Saratoga. [NYRA Press Release]
NBC will have its A team of Tom Hammond, Gary Stevens, Mike Battaglia, and Kenny Rice on hand.

This is so cool that it's almost surreal - a regular weekly television series! Just an incredible coup, like a national TV version of the old local coverage; I almost expect to see Frank Wright and Charlsie Canty on hand. NYRA deserves all the credit in the world for scoring the deal.

Of course, you won't hear any praise for NYRA in Albany, where the latest Senate hearing scheduled by Senate Racing, Wagering, and Gaming Committee chairman Sen. John Bonacic is to include the topic of whether the three-track franchise can be legally taken away from the New York Racing Association. [Bloodhorse]

I mean, seriously. In a more objective setting, these hearing could pertain to, in addition to the television coup, NYRA's aggressive, and apparently successful, efforts to attract on-track and online business in the wake of NYC OTB's demise; its excellent full service ADW platform including live streaming of a multitude of tracks; its cross-breed deal to include Yonkers on that platform; and its creative marketing and sponsorship deals for the Saratoga meeting...and hold them up as models for other tracks in the state! Instead, the Senator wants to discuss how to make NYRA go away. And, as Matt Hegarty reports, there could be other motives than the usual convenient political bashing:
The state is currently restricted from developing all but small parcels of the Belmont property. If NYRA’s lease were revoked, that would free the state to seek private casino operators at the property. [DRF]
Bonacic issued a release detailing the points on his agenda.
“Whether we agree with every action taken or not, under the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority Leader Skelos, New York has changed for the better. I want to build on that energy during the off-session to develop proposals which are capable of passing both the Assembly and Senate relating to both private casino gaming development and improvements to New York’s horse racing industry,” Senator Bonacic said.

Among the dozen issues Bonacic indicated he was initially contemplating include:

1. Where is casino gaming desired across New York State?
2. Who has an interest in developing private sector casino gaming in New York?
3. Should we end efforts to attract Native American casinos and focus instead on private sector casino development?
4. What would be the impact of private sector casino development in Western New York with respect to State’s existing agreement with the Seneca Nation?
5. Where should an expansion of casino gaming be permitted?
6. What requirements, if any, should there be to benefit the horse racing industry?
7. Can the racing franchise at State owned tracks be legally taken from NYRA?
8. Should New York State require out of State Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) systems to pay the same statutory Commissions as in-state ADWs?
9. Should OTBs be able to accumulate millions in cash on hand without returning it to their regions?
10. Which OTBs are innovating?
11. Why should all OTBs not be forced into a statutory merger?
12. How can New York help the agricultural aspects of horse breeding and training in New York State?
There are some worthy topics here, particularly the ones pertaining to OTB. But besides NYRA, I would think that the Indian tribes aspiring to build casinos also can't be too happy about this, with the emphasis clearly and squarely on the notion of private sector casino gaming (which also fits in with Hegarty's observation about Belmont).

And that "if any" in #6 should give pause to all of the racetracks in the state...and around the country for that matter. I've always feared that it's just a matter of time before politicians take a look at casino revenues and start to question why portions of it are being used to prop up racetracks instead of closing deficits or funding their pet projects.

Also feel compelled to comment on that introductory statement about the "leadership of Governor Cuomo and the Senate Majority Leader Skelos." The only thing that Senator Skelos is able to lead is his chin into Andrew Cuomo's butt. Don't want to get too much into this here, but suffice to say that it was the governor who, in these difficult times, took the lead on GOP-friendly issues regarding budget cuts, pension reform, preserving tax cuts for the wealthy, and property tax caps. And Skelos knows very well that this extraordinarily popular governor can easily turn the tables on the GOP in 2012 and re-relegate them to minority status should he get involved in the campaign. So no surprise that he fell into line on permitting a vote on gay marriage (an issue on which he could not even keep his own conference in line), came off the Senate's position on no changes in the rent control laws, and will have to eventually give way on redistricting as well given Cuomo's promise to veto anything that smacks of partisanship. Still, I imagine he'll probably manage, at some point, to get his smug smiley face on NBC or Versus at some point during the summer if he's hanging around the area. (I wonder what ever happened to Joe Bruno's box?)


jk said...

You used to hear money from the lottery was dedicated to education, you do no hear that one anymore.

NY State needs every dollar to pay for all of the inflated promises the pols have made. Wall St. is in decline so they need a new cash cow.

Cuomo has jumped aboard natural gas drilling as his financial panacea. Gambling is always a good one. The pols see the Yonkers slots goldmine and they all want one for themselves.

NYRA is chugging along, eliminating the OTB parasite was a big win for them. I would not worry about a few pot shots from Albany. Like Alan said, at least they have the OTB's in their cross hairs.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that a quick look at a list of Sen. Bonacic's campaign donors would show plenty of "private sector casino gaming" interests.

cheers, chris

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the new AMD plant near Saratoga?

Anonymous said...

Hey, Alan,

Miss Joe Bruno yet?! I still think Cuomo The Younger is doing a good job given the hand he was dealt. I think Andrew and Joe would be a good team and things would get done in NY once again.

Whaddya think, Alan? Time to get a rise out of you on the eve of a new season at The Spa, Joe's favorite playground of summers past.

Yes, agreed Alan, hats off to NYRA for landing the week-end TV deal. Will bring wide exposure to many who have never experienced the delights of Saratoga's ne plus ultra Grade I stakes schedule.

Valerie Grash said...

Love any television exposure for the sport, but it would be nice if someone over at Versus/NBC knew at least the basics about the sport and its history. The ad I saw on Versus for Saturday's NBC coverage said they were highlighting the "American Oaks"...which, of course, is the turf race contested last weekend on the other coast. I guess since the Coaching Club isn't Yum! or some other company whoring out their name sponsoring the race they didn't feel the need to mention it :-)

El Angelo said...

I thoroughly miss the sleaziness and corruption of Joe Bruno. It's tough to get as much ire up about Dean Skelos, who's just an ass.

Steve Zorn said...

At one point I think Joe Bruno had THREE boxes at Saratoga, one in his own name, one as Senator from Troy, etc., and one as Majority Leader. But, like the often odious Mitch McConnel, he was the Senator from Racing, and at least understood the issues. Can't say the same about a lot of the current Albany inmates.

Figless said...

In fact all of the points he mentioned are valid and worthy of exploration by his committee, with the bizarre exception of the NYRA franchise revocation?

Wtf did this come from? No it can not be revoked, did he even read the law he is charged at overseeing?

Figless said...

As for #12 one way the agriculural impact could be enhanced would be for the state to acquire foreclosed farm property to be used as sanctuaries for retired NY Bred race horses, all breeds.

As a requirement for Vets to be licensed to practice at the tracks they would be required to provide one weekend per annum caring for these retired warriors who gave their all on the track.

I could go on and on, but the point about the Vets is intended to ask that those that make SO much money off this industry be required to give something back.

And perhaps if they were required to spend a weekend caring for some of these lame old racehorses they might have second thoughts about using some of those aggressive treatments they recommend (those that are less than scrupulous, I realize some are very reputable).