- NYRA quickly reacted to flick away the latest broadside from a state government official; this time, and once again, the Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who issued a report, in the form of a letter to Charles Hayward, on the probe he promised over the summer, a followup to his critical audit report of June, 2010. At this point, NYRA's Director of Communications and Media Relations Dan Silver may very well have a response file ready to fend off the expected attacks. The file for DiNapoli Disses would be located somewhere amongst and between the ones marked for the occasions of Franchise Oversight Fantasies, Ignorant Newspaper Editorials, and Dumbass Politicians.
NYRA's response was curt and firm, in particular when pointing out that the Comptroller's summary statement issued to the press took a far dimmer view than what was actually expressed in the report. While DiNapoli, in his press release, would concede only that NYRA "has launched some cost containment initiatives," NYRA pointed out that the report (in PDF format here) was actually far more explicit in detailing what it has done to comply with his audit's recommendations.
However, as the actual audit report notes , NYRA has made strides in implementing the 2010 recommendations, including plans to enhance revenues, staffing analysis and cuts in overall staffing, the termination of our former integrity counsel and the awarding of a more cost-effective integrity counsel, cost savings on the transportation of horses between NYRA tracks, and several other cost-cutting initiatives.In fact, the recommendations in the report that are marked 'Partially Implemented' seem instead to actually be rather substantively implemented. And the ones marked 'Not Implemented' hardly seem that significant or material at all in the larger scheme of things. For example, there's this one:
Another is regarding surprise mutuel clerk cash counts not being a surprise; and the other two concern concessions, which is now out of NYRA's hands for half of the year, as Genting has taken over at the Big A.
Identify the extent to which other NYRA operations and services deviate from standard industry practices and evaluate whether such departures are necessary and cost-effective.
Status - Not Implemented
Agency Action - NYRA officials asserted that they do not pay for any practices that deviate from industry practice. However, they have not supported their assertion with any documented analysis.
Not only did the Comptroller paint a dark picture in his press release, he stated, in a fit of mere speculation, that “NYRA stands to squander significant revenue from the recently opened VLT franchise at Aqueduct." NYRA responded, helpfully: "As a reminder, the use of VLT proceeds is regulated by statute and primarily allocated to purse money and capital expenditures."
And in the most bizarre aspect of the exchange, the Comptroller contended that NYRA "expects a $19.7 million loss from racing operations in 2012." This assertion was mentioned only in the press release; it was not part of DiNapoli's report at all. When asked where DiNapoli got that number, a spokesperson for the Comptroller told Matt Hegarty that it was "provided by NYRA during a closing conference." [DRF] But that notion is flatly disputed by NYRA, which stands by its expectation to turn a slight profit, $1.4 million, from racing operations this year. I have no reason to doubt that; it jibes with financial projections I've been shown in the past.
So, where did DiNapoli really get that number? Perhaps, as Hegarty wrote, it "may reflect a difference of opinion on what costs should be included in the association's racing operations." Given his consistent record of exaggerated and/or misleadingly negative criticisms of NYRA, it's certainly fair to speculate that the Comptroller went out of his way to portray NYRA's outlook in the least favorable light possible.
And the release around the same time of the lobbying expenses and campaign contributions of other industry players (with, not surprisingly, the seemingly unlimited cash-resourced Genting leading the pack) raises another question: Is the continued hostility towards the association a result of the fact that NYRA seems to stand alone amongst those who do not "pay to play?" After all, if NYRA's name came up on the list of those who have generously contributed to politicians throughout the system, they'd certainly be hearing from DiNapoli or Robert Megna. And then Dan Silver would have to go back to his response file.