NYRA gets nod from Spitzer

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has announced his recommendation that the New York Racing Association (NYRA) be awarded the state's racing franchise to operate Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, and Saratoga Race Course.

He also announced his recommendation that a separate franchise be awarded to an experienced gaming operator to operate as many as 4,500 video lottery terminals (VLTs) at Aqueduct. The recommendation of a VLT operator will be made within approximately 60 days.

After careful consideration, I concluded that a reconstituted NYRA is the best entity to operate thoroughbred racing in New York State, said Spitzer in a written statement. "The state, in consultation with NYRA, will choose an experienced gaming operator to operate the VLT franchise at Aqueduct. This will ensure that we have the best possible operator for both the racing and the gaming franchise."

The recommendation to award two separate franchises " one for racing and one for the gaming operation " follows an extensive review of proposals to hold the racing franchise at the three state-owned racing facilities and to establish VLT facilities. The new franchises " for racing and the VLT operation at Aqueduct " are scheduled to begin on Jan. 1.

NYRA faced competition from three other bidders. Excelsior Racing Associates, Empire Racing Associates and Capital Play Inc. also lobbied for the franchise in the last two years.

"Thoroughbred racing is a vital state industry, providing tens of thousands of jobs to breeders, horsemen and workers who are directly employed at New York's three thoroughbred tracks," said Spitzer. "Following my investigations a few years ago, a new leadership team at NYRA has turned the organization around to the point where it is demonstrating real results and true transparency. The strong performance of racing this season is a testament to how far NYRA has come in the last few years and this agreement ensures that racing in New York State will be operated by experienced management."

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