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NYRA gets nod from Spitzer

Governor Spitzer will seek legislative approval of his recommendations with respect to these franchises.

NYRA's board of directors approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining the major terms of the 30-year agreement between NYRA and the state, enabling the 52 year-old nonprofit entity to emerge from bankruptcy and modify its governance structure. The memorandum also relinquishes NYRA's claim of ownership of New York's racecourses " racecourses the franchise holder has paid more than $400 million in taxes on during the past 50 years.

Charles Hayward, NYRA's president and CEO, said this was a victory for both a reinvigorated NYRA and racing in general.

"We now have some tremendous momentum," he said during a press conference held at the racecourse on Tuesday, Sept. 4. "The real winner here is the racing industry and all its constituents."

C. Steven Duncker, chairman the NYRA Board of Trustees, echoed Hayward's sentiment.

"Today's announcement is the culmination of NYRA's efforts over the past several years to reinvent itself," Duncker said. "The governor's support is a testament to the efforts undertaken by NYRA to become the racing industry leader in integrity and corporate governance. NYRA remains committed to continuing this effort while at the same time retaining its position as the producer of the best racing product in North America, as exhibited by the recently concluded Saratoga race meet."

Though the most anticipated announcement in the franchise selection process has been made, the process is far from over. His recommendation has to attain legislative approval, and will be scrutinized by the state Senate, according to a statement made by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick.

"The governor's handling of the process to select a new horse racing franchise has had several false starts, and now has a questionable finish," Bruno said. "The legislature and executive (branch) put a process in place two years ago to determine who would be best suited to run a world-class horse racing industry. Unfortunately, Gov. Spitzer bypassed that process and, with just four months until the current franchise expires, his announcement today still leaves more questions than answers."

Bruno said the Senate will review the governor's racing recommendations to determine its impact on Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont. The Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering has already scheduled a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 11 a.m. in Hearing Room A of the Legislative Office Building in Albany to discuss issues with the racing franchise.

The state Legislature is expected to convene for a special session later this month.

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