The Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing rejects a re-privatization plan now being circulated by Governor Cuomo that seeks to retain public control of NYRA and to unilaterally transfer funds legally designated for our state's Thoroughbred racing industry into the state's general fund.
The Governor's proposal will:
· Allow the Governor to appoint one-third of the members to the new NYRA board of directors or 5 of the 15 members;
· With one member also appointed by the Senate and Assembly, there would be at least 7 of the 15 members appointed directly by our state government;
· The Governor would also appoint the new Chair of the Board of Directors;
· Transfer VLT funds away from NYRA that were previously designed for Capital improvements at Belmont, Aqueduct and the Saratoga Race Course as well as funds for NYRA operations;
· Provide sweeping new powers to various public agencies expanding their role from oversight to protect the public good, to empowering these agencies to be able to manipulate NYRA's budget and operations.
Four years ago, this Governor promised to return NYRA to a not-for-profit corporation in three years. He did not keep that promise last year. This year, his plan is another means by which he is seeking to exert his control over NYRA and the future of our state's Thoroughbred racing industry.
We are vehemently opposed to the transfer of funds legally designated via prior agreements to support our state's Thoroughbred racing industry into the state's general fund. This change ignores the fact that New York State was given $1 billion in real estate at NYRA's three tracks in return for the granting of a 25-year franchise agreement and a legislatively-approved revenue sharing formula from the VLT at Aqueduct. The VLT revenues are like mortgage payments for the land. If they can change the agreement this year, they will change it next year too.
We're seeing a renaissance of racing in Saratoga and New York State. Here in Saratoga our race meeting is one of the most successful and most popular in all of the world. The Saratoga Race Course is the oldest sporting venue in the United States and the transfer of funds away from NYRA as proposed by the Governor could harm our plans to improve this facility so that it succeeds for another 150 years.
We greatly appreciate the efforts of Saratoga's local legislators working collaboratively with the Capital Region's delegation and the Chairs of the Assembly and Senate Racing Committees to re-privatize NYRA as a not-for-profit corporation. They clearly want to keep this promise before the legislative session ends this June. We hope that they will provide a clean stand-alone bill for the Governor to sign.
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