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Monday, February 11, 2008

On Further Thought...

- The Times Union reported this morning that the state had dropped its demand for supermajority votes on the NYRA board. But, in his statement today, Steve Duncker said that "the newly proposed structure would politicize the Board and endanger the very reforms that have been accomplished to date." So it sounds like the structure of the board is still an issue.

The idea of preventing Albany politicians from having control of NYRA's board is certainly a worthy goal, as has been so aptly demonstrated during this years-long mess. But it's worth noting that, based on the press reports of what was being proposed by the state, three of the ten board appointees to be selected by the Governor, Assembly, and Senate would be appointed by Spitzer based on "recommendations from horsemen, breeders, and labor." Now I'm not sure what they mean by "labor;" and I'd hope that "horsemen and breeders" doesn't mean Joe Bruno. But I'm presuming that these three picks are supposed to represent the interests of the industry.

A 'supermajority' often means 2/3rds, so the state was probably proposing that 14 votes of the 21 member board would be required to pass a measure. Since NYRA would have 11 appointees, it would need three additional votes to push through a proposal. So, in matters of NYRA-sponsored proposals on which it and the political appointees were voting in blocs in opposition, the appointees recommended by horsemen, breeders, and labor would be, in effect, a swing vote. Depending on exactly what is meant by 'labor,' that might not be such a bad thing. After all, if you assume that NYRA is pushing proposals beneficial and constructive to the industry, and that the three recommended appointees are sympathetic to the cause, then what would be the problem? And it would, in theory of course, give the horsemen some real leverage on the board on matters that are more controversial.

A couple of readers suggested that when Duncker referred to the "the broken business model of thoroughbred racing in New York," he wasn't referring to OTB. Perhaps not, though I think that I often see "broken business model" used to describe that particular situation. Of course there's no way that the legislature is going to consolidate OTB in the next two days, and Duncker well knows that. So perhaps it is just some clever PR. But, on the other hand, maybe it's instead a plea demand to take the matter more seriously. A committee is going to study the issue and get back to us in May 2009?? Please! That's the political equivalent of "we'll be in touch." I could easily now get into the usual rant about this unique opportunity for change going by the boards...but I suspect they'll be plenty more opportunities for that.

Jeff Gural shut down Vernon Downs' racino on Monday, the first one in the state (the country?) to close due to financial losses. Amazing, isn't it? He says he'll shut Tioga Downs next month if a bill giving the tracks higher percentages of VLT revenue doesn't pass. The Press and Sun Bulletin of Binghamton, NY has a report that the harness tracks are trying to get a new revenue sharing deal included in the NYRA negotiations. And indeed, ccording to this report, Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver are fully involved.

"It's an active negotiation that is taking place right now simultaneously with the NYRA deal," Silver said. "Whether it's part of the NYRA deal, not part of the NYRA deal, is irrelevant. It's obviously something we need to deal with in a timely fashion." []
Representative Gary Pretlow, who sponsored the bill that was shot down in committee, opposes going any further than what was proposed. "We're spending too much that should go to education rather than to prop up these racetracks," he said. Pretlow sounds like he did months ago. before he decided to sponsor the ill-fated bill.


Anonymous said...

Gural spent too much buying Vernon Downs out of bankruptcy, ignoring the fact it sits five miles from an Indian casino. To top everything, he ignored the fact that the video lottery terminals don't return a windfall to the racetrack's owner.

He made a bad business decision and now wants the State to bail him out. I feel empathy for the soon to be displaced horsemen, but enough's enough.

Anonymous said...

Alan.. Maybe the "labor" board member will actually be a voice of the nyra employees. Someone to make sure they are not overlooked or steamrolled by what is going to be a very rich and powerful nyra. There is NO board member like this now. If NYS government creates a powerful racing association they should also monitor that power for the good of the NY worker.

Anonymous said...

Of course a real voice for NYRA employees would be of great value. But filtering the choice of the labor rep through the governor makes the language practically meaningless.

As to the supermajority - its a recipe for deadlock and inaction. Talk about a broken business model!

Anonymous said...

Or maybe the labor board member might stop the Belmont management from giving contracts to relatives for construction. True open bidding in adherance with state wage laws,the comptroller's office,local labor unions along with a little oversight might make practices such as this a thing of the past.

Anonymous said...

DRF reports that the Racing Office at Big A was open and taking entries for Thursday.

Someone should tell Duncker.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Vernon Downs will give the tax hungry pols in Albany something to think about. Like stop looking at racing, VLT's etc as ATM's for tax revenue. They will produce what the market will bear, as in all other businesses, but no more. Business has to make a profit to survive or otherwise no one is going to stay in business. They are so desperate for revenue, and have taxed everything else to the max, they look at gambling enterprises as weak patsies totally beholden to them for survival, just like the Mob looks at junkies, gamblers, shaky businesspeople and others who must borrow from loan sharks. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Listen, Gural bought Vernon Downs because there is no racing up in that area and its a huge racing area.
He loves the area and the track.

Turning Stone does not pay 1 penny in taxes. It sucks from the system.

Vernon Downs is part of the system and a help to the local community.

300 of my friends are now out of work because the state assembly is disfunctional.

This sucks.