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Friday, July 20, 2007

Last Dance for Bidders

- Governor Spitzer, flush from an agreement with legislative leaders on what is at least some partial reform on the lax campaign finance laws in the state (he negotiated with aides to Bruno rather than the Senator himself), announced today that he will make his long-awaited selection of the next franchise holder (or holders) on September 4. He also requested that each of the four bidders submit new proposals "to reflect its current structure and financing or to confirm that there have been no material changes since the last submission." Since the last proposals, Capital Play has taken on Mohegan Sun, Empire has lost the backing of the NYTHA, and Excelsior has added real estate developer Steve Roth. He also invited bidders to submit new ideas, take on new partners or partner amongst themselves, and express any interest in running racing or slots alone.

Unless there are any surprises (i.e., the four team up as a single entity - NYRA runs racing, Excelsior runs the racino, Capital Play conducts Ladies Nights, and Empire takes out the garbage), I personally believe that the state is merely looking to formalize any changes in writing, and I don't really expect Spitzer to deviate from whatever he has in mind now; which is, reportedly, a combination of NYRA and Excelsior. NYRA's land claim, which state lawyers take seriously according to Tom Precious' report on, is not going away; so this option would allow the matter to be settled without a court battle (assuming an agreement on the land is part of the deal), and also allow Spitzer to take credit for personally righting the NYRA ship with his threatened prosecution as attorney general. Capital Play is an intriguing choice, but at this point I'd be rather shocked if Spitzer awards them the deal given their foreign roots; and in fact, I think they've been bucking long odds from the very beginning.

As for Empire, Jeff Perlee told Thoroughbred Times: “We appreciate the Governor’s statement and share his wishes to conclude this process and bring needed change to New York’s racing industry.” In my opinion, if anyone had actually read the Inspector General's scathing assessment of Empire, its shady beginnings, and its proposed giveaways to Magna/Churchill (none of which have been refuted publicly), they'd have been thrown out on their ears long before this point. Reading Perlee speak in this manner is like hearing Michael Vick promote himself for SI's Sportsperson of the Year. With the withdrawal of the NYTHA's support (a small detail which has not yet been noted on Empire's website!), they bring nothing to the table. They have zero shot (or at least they should), and Spitzer would do them the favor by saving them from spending the money to even bother writing another proposal. They may need it for the $500,000 that they may be obligated to repurchase Magna and Churchill's shares with.

- Here's some fantastic news for all thoroughbred racing fans. The Thoroughbred Daily News, the self-anointed "Wall Street Journal for the Thoroughbred industry worldwide," is changing their business model from subscription-based to advertising-based as of August 1. So everyone will be able to partake of the invaluable information they provide on a daily basis - with emphasis on international racing, pedigree and auctions that we just don't get elsewhere. Actually, I'm a little upset because as a subscriber (it came free with a subscription to Bloodhorse), it made me feel smarter than those who didn't get it. Now, everyone can and we'll all be better informed for it.

- Thanks to Jessica for steering us to Bob and Ike's Picks, where we learn that the winning Pick Six ticket was a paper one cashed by an 80 year old man! Nice picking there, guy!! (And as Kevin said, Whew!)


Valerie Grash said...

Damn you for putting that god-awful Donna Summer's song in my head with your headline! :) LOL

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be a Doubting Thomas, but does anyone recall Don Groth of Catskill Off-Track Betting Corporation initially said he personally knew the patron who won the Breeders Cup Pick Six, vouching for the integrity of the wager?

Let the regulators investigate before feeling too comfortable.

Anonymous said...

At long last- time to actually make a decision, the one thing all pols like to avoid. Yes, the IG's Integrity report absolutely finished whatever slim chances Empire had. Capital Play to arrange "Ladies Night", haha- very good, Alan! Am still interested to know who besides Tim Smith will be taking the fall for that first class botch job! What's the old saying?: "You'll never work in this town again!" A NYRA-Excelsior combo I have thought for a long time is our best bet and hopefully that is what happens in September. Meanwhile they're soon off at the Spa so life is good! /S/ Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Further to say that the new franchisee must implement aggressive marketing on behalf of NY racing and horsemen, especially to counter Churchill Downs and the KY breeders. The Belmont and Travers need to become household names on a par with KY Derby when the average sports fan thinks of racing. They also need to promote NY stakes races as important, traditional, indeed historic races in their own right instead of part of the Breeders Cup Challenge. I am not a big Breeders Cup fan as at root the BC has benefitted mainly KY breeders and not the greater racing industry as a whole. Most sports fans look at you with a blank stare and a "Huh?"hen you mention Breeders Cup. Only the KY Derby has name recognition- when the Belmont(older and once more prestigious) and Travers (oldest of all) have just as much to recommend but have not been effectively promoted.NY racing is # 1- and it's up to the new franchisee to demonstrate it.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I disagree with Green Mtn Punter's assessment that NYRA/Excelsior is the "best bet" for New York racing. I know that this blog is abound with NYRA supporters, but NYRA has had 53 years to do the right thing, and at every opportunity they messed it up.

New York State offered NYRA first crack at OTBs - they said No, now we have two competing entities over wagering dollars; NYRA was given VLTs and they dragged their feet (remember the original NYRA/MGM contracts were approved and it was an amendment to the original contract that guaranteed MGM their money first above all others, including the State, that caused the Lottery and rightly so to rescind approval).

It really is a shame how badly New York State screwed this whole process up. From day one they could have said, "in order to get this franchise you must be willing to do this...." They really had a chance to get this thing right and what they have ended up doing is put themselves in the position of having to pick the best of the worst.

And anonymous, if you think that NYRA is going to aggressively market New York racing, remember they are staying a not-for-profit (one that has consistently lost money) how will they pay for it? Not to mention they haven't done it for 53 years...notice how it wasn't until they were in jeapordy of losing the franchise that they claimed that New York's racing model was out-dated.

Why is that? Maybe, because there only obligations are towards operating expenses if they come up short, so be it the State will bail them out. This means no polytrack, no investment in the downstate tracks (i.e. backstretch, barns, paddocks, surfaces) which will ultimately mean goodbye horsemen.

NYRA is a failure and is a bad bet all around.