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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NYRA Oversight Board Wants Details on CEO Bonus

Franchise Oversight Board member Steven Newman wants to know the precise basis on which CEO Chris Kay was awarded a $250,000 bonus after a little over a year on the job.  In response, at Monday's meeting of the board, Mr. Kay seemed a bit defensive.  Pointedly mentioning that the board "was appointed by Governor Cuomo and other elected officials," he responded:

"The Board has certain criteria that the chairman of the board communicates to me....and then the chairman has made the determination that I have performed in a fashion being consistent with being eligible and entitled to that bonus."
Sensing the defensive nature of the response, Newman replied: "My purpose is not to dispute the bonus.  My purpose is transparency and disclosure."  And considering the way that Charlie Hayward was skewered for his hesitancy to reveal his own salary when NYRA was a private non-profit entity, this surely seems like a fair request now that NYRA is, as Newman noted, "in essence, a public body." From his statement, it would seem as if Kay is very well aware of exactly what those criteria are.  Yet the matter was left with the FOB having to submit to NYRA a formal written request for the information.  Questioned further on the matter, Kay noted that NYRA Board Chairman Dr. David Skorton "has been an advocate for transparency."

Well, I'm glad somebody around here is.  Because I think it's entirely fair to say that NYRA has not exactly been a beacon of transparency of late.  If it were, then I'd think that they would simply provide the details of the bonus instead of making the FOB go through circles to get it.  And that they would have let us known exactly how they were going to count attendance at Saratoga without a newspaper report forcing their hand (and that they would endeavor to count it accurately).  And that they would have made a choice for Director of Communications other than an industry outsider with a clear history of obfuscating the public with bullshit, and with a hostile attitude towards the working press (including illegally barring some members of the media from an open meeting of the NYRA board).  And that they would announce the attendance figures at Belmont (which they haven't since the fall meet began).  That all seems rather opaque to me.

Interesting to hear Kay explain some of the reasons behind the all-sources handle decline for the Saratoga meet (on-track handle was up). 
Kay attributed the off-track decline to a 19.4% drop in bets on NYRA races through the Del Mar system and a 10.6% decrease at Gulfstream Park, which now races live in July and August. [Bloodhorse]
We figured that Gulfstream had something to do with it.  The magnitude of the Del Mar decline is rather ponderous; the handle on its own races was down by 7.3%.  I wonder if running less races and ending the cards earlier in the day might have been a big factor in that drop considering the fact that it's three hours earlier in the day out there.  After all, it was with an eye towards capturing additional handle from western time zones that NYRA moved post time to 1:20 at Aqueduct and Belmont earlier this year (it's back to 1:05 for now).

 - The Massachusetts state gambling commission awarded the Boston-area casino license to Steve Wynn, who will construct a facility in Everett, over the Mohegan Sun bid at Suffolk Downs.  The track will close. 
“We are extraordinarily disappointed as this action is likely to cost the commonwealth thousands of jobs, small businesses, and family farms,” Suffolk chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said in a statement. “We will be meeting with employees and horsemen over the next several days to talk about how we wind down racing operations as a 79-year legacy of Thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts will be coming to an end, resulting in unemployment and uncertainty for many hardworking people.” []
That sucks.  Have to feel for all of the people that will be affected; the horsemen, workers at the track and farms and related businesses; as well as Chip Tuttle and the team at Suffolk who have worked so hard to try and make things work.  However, one can surely argue that a track that can't survive without being subsidized by a casino isn't truly working.  And remember, the people of East Boston voted against having a casino in their community.  By moving ahead with a plan to build entirely on the portion of the property located in Revere (which approved a referendum), Suffolk was attempting an end-around the voters' wishes.  In East Boston, those who constituted the majority of referendum voters are no doubt thinking that justice ultimately prevailed.

On the other hand, Everett is a town that overwhelmingly approved a casino - some 86% voted yes.  “This is going to be a snowball, getting bigger and bigger,” [Mayor Carlo] DeMaria said.  Perhaps the mayor has missed the memo, which actually has the snowball going in reverse. Or, perhaps Boston, by virtue of its location, will be better isolated from the growing competition than casinos in New York, or the MGM resort planned for Springfield, MA, closer to the NY border (though still over an hour and a half from the Capital District).  We are skeptical, as always.....but hope that things work out for the people there.  (Of course, the entire casino question in the state is once again up before the voters in November.)


Anonymous said...

Kay's performance clearly does not warrant a doubling of salary in the form of a bonus. Consider:
running out of food at Belmont stakes
running out of past performances at Belmont
parking passes invalid
lines at restrooms and subway
exit traffic
kicking out the Saratoga Special at the Spa
Attendance misrepresentations at Spa
horse fatalities at Saratoga ( I would not consider this a fault of mngt but they take credit when they decrease)
These are the issues we are aware of. The internal issues go unnoticed

jk said...

Good to see an entity with the name "oversight" in it actually performing its mission. A rarity in NY State government.