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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More On Excelsior

- More details are coming out about Excelsior's winning bid for the NY franchise, and it seems ironic that the state committee went along with the non-profit racing/for-profit casino model that was being espoused by NYRA. But the incumbent operator could not offer the same guarantees of money that the other two did. They could not offer lease payments, as that would undermine their position that they own the land. Actually, according to the Albany Times-Union, their offers of payments based on the racinos and for capital improvements actually exceeded those of their rivals - by a wide margin regarding the latter, but the committee said it could not highly rate NYRA's commitments since they were not guaranteed.

Excelsior succeeded with its promise of $104 million in upgrades to the three tracks, compared to $59.2 million by Empire. It also guaranteed to make pension payments for track workers -- a liability now at $54.5 million and growing as NYRA works out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
- In the NY Daily News' Daily Politics blog, writer Bill Hammond suggests that Eliot Spitzer has put himself, and perhaps Excelsior, in a touchy position by having accepted discounted private jet rides from Excelsior principal and Spitzer campaign donor Richard Fields:
Does he ignore the panel's recommendation, or does he support giving a lucrative contract to a someone who loaned him a Gulfstream and pumped more than $200,000 into his campaign account?
- Empire's CEO Jeff Perlee told the Saratogian:
'We handily won integrity, racing experience and there was no mention here of economic development, which is a major component of our plan. Also, Senator Bruno becomes very important here, particularly when you look at operational experience. Will Senator Bruno be a party to turning Saratoga over to a dog track operator?'
We also read another representative of Empire refer to Excelsior as a "dog track operator" in an Associated Press story last night. A look at the key figures behind Excelsior reveal no obvious connections to dog racing, though it's entirely possible that someone connected with the group has such an association. Nonetheless, I think it's fair to say that that characterization would be an exaggeration even if that was the case.

But if you tell people something enough times, they come to believe it; that's part of what PR is all about. The AP story told us that the bulk of [Excelsior's] in harness racing and greyhound racing. In the Saratogian story, reporter Paul Post, who writes regularly of racing matters and should know better, wrote that Excelsior runs two Chicago harness tracks.

The fact is that William and John Johnston, referred to as "advisors" to Excelsior in the Times Union piece, own and operate Mayfield and Balmoral Park, two Chicago harness tracks. That hardly means that Excelsior "runs" them or is a harness track "operator." No more so than the presence of Delaware North as an investor in Empire makes the latter a "dog track operator," even though Delaware North is the owner of Wheeling Island Race Track, a greyhound track and racino located in West Virginia.


Anonymous said...

Well, the Fair Grounds opens Thursday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. And incredibly, with all the money Churchill Downs spent to re-furbish the racetrack, they chose not to replace the racing surface. I'm no track superintendant, but i would think the track got pretty damn torn up. I read something about having to pick out all the debris that was deposited by the flood waters. Anything to save a little money, huh? Anyhow, it seems that Churchill has also chosen not to bring back the training races. What a damn shame.

Anonymous said...

And The Green Monkey gets turned out for the year with nary a start. I think I could live fairly comfortably on the interest his purchase price would earn.

Bank Check

Anonymous said...

I know it is not MR. S himself named in the bid, but it IS his money and or group, and he did/does? own and operater Tampa Downs, so there is at least some racing experience in the family.

If the main diference in the monetary side of the bid is lease payments, it would seem the real estate taxes paid by NYRA should count for something. Sure they can/will amend their offer if the court rules against their land claim.

However, it will be impossible to overcome the integrity issue, although to be fair the current management had little or nothing to do with the integrity issue to begin with so it seems unfair to punish a corporation based on its prior boards actions.