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NYRA announces plans for upcoming Saratoga meet

With legislation still pending regarding the New York Racing Association's franchise, it announced today its plans for the 2008 Saratoga racing meet at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie.

Charles Hayward, chief executive for NYRA, acknowledged that the association's legal red tape is still an ongoing issue, but still emphasized the attractions NYRA is planning to implement for the summer season at Saratoga.

I hope next year by this time there won't be any talk about the franchise, Hayward said at the press conference held at The Desmond Hotel in Colonie.

Gavin Landry, NYRA's senior vice-president of sales and marketing, highlighted several new ideas to help improve customer service and bring people to the track. Five new restaurants will be featured on-site this summer, a feature that Landry believes will provide a boost to the overall atmosphere at the track.

Speculation about a potential decrease in track attendance due to a sluggish economy was brought up as well.

"There are some uncertain economic times facing Saratoga," said Hal Handle of NYRA.

He cited high gas prices and fickle weather as other possible reasons for a potential decrease in attendees. He did however point to the "allure of the track" and quality of the product as reasons the Saratoga track might not take such a large hit. He also said the attendance at Belmont and Aqueduct has been good.

He also addressed the lack of an operator for the Video Lottery Terminals at the Aqueduct track, which are a sizable source of income. There are several bidders for the VLT contract including Capital Play who made a bid on the entire franchise last year. New York state considered giving the racing contract to another entity due to NYRA's bankruptcy, but ultimately chose not to give the contract away. There is a tentative 2009 date for an operator to be named and the Video Lottery Terminal's to be made available to the public.

The Saratoga season will go from Wednesday, July 23, through Labor Day, Sept. 1.

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