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SARATOGA: Board member severs ties with Empire

The racing franchise is worth several hundred million dollars, Perlee said, but by going public, the company would greatly increase its financing oppor-tunities.

The firm is competing with Excelsior Racing Associates and New York Racing Association for the right to run Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct when NYRA's franchise expires on Dec. 31, 2007. The state Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing recently recommended Excelsior as the preferred racetrack operator, but the panel's decision is non-binding and the final decision rests with Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer and the state Legislature.

Empire has come out recently with a series of informational sessions focusing on their plan for economic development. Perlee said he envisions upstate New York as a racing mecca, comparable to the Lexington, Ky., area, with Saratoga Springs as the hub.

"The horse racing industry is responsible for more than 40,000 jobs and has an economic impact of $1.4 billion on New York State," Perlee said. "But these numbers can be even greater with smart initiatives and proper stewardship, and that's what our plan provides.""

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