’s Ehalt: ‘Should NY racing fans buy selling NYRA?’

by | 09.25.2012 | 3:15pm

Horse racing has been abuzz with the reports (or rumors) in the media over the last 24 hours that Gov. Cuomo has finally reached a decision on what he plans on doing about NYRA. Reports claim that he plans on selling off NYRA, with the hopes that a company such as Churchill Downs Inc., or the Stronach Group will buy it.

In his latest column for, Bob Ehalt opines that while “privatization can work,  it could certainly worsen deep-rooted problems” that already exist.

If NYRA is privatized, whomever takes over the reins “will have to make back the money it pays the state just to break even,” according to Ehalt. That, of course, would not be a simple task, since the new casino that is located at Aqueduct would not be part of the deal.

“It certainly would be interesting to see how much a gaming company would be willing to pay for NYRA's assets,” Ehalt concludes. “A business outside the industry might be fooled by the hype, but an entity like Churchill Downs or Magna should be able to figure out that one of NYRA's biggest problems was the new partner of the new owner: the state.”

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    COuldn’t agree more with most of what is being said in this peice.  If a group like CDI comes in to take over…say goodbye to the fan or bettor even being considered in the changes that will be made.

    Way to go Incompetent Andy…..Way To Go!!!!

  • Thelibrarian

    There is only one thing that has ever been great about NY Racing. The purses. The rest…not so much.

  • Nancy

    It’s nice to finally read something about NYRA’S biggest problem, the state. There are not too many things NYRA can do without state approval. The whole thing is a mess, keep dreaming if you think anything will be better after Andrew makes his changes. Ask Genting what they think about the way things have developed for them.

  • Lost In The Fog

    Since when did the incompetents at the NYRA care more about the fans and bettors than the sharks at CDI and Magna?

  • Figless

    By privatizing I am certain the State means bidding out the Franchise, again, just like last time, but without a NYRA bid. It does not mean “selling the assets” as the article states because NYRA has no remaining assets (state property now), only liabilties. It would have to include some VLT revenue or the top bid would be a buck as in CT (article), maybe, because the 2012 budgets loses a LOT of money without VLT before any rental payments that the State will probably demand for the facilities.

    It is also possible they will bid the meets individually in which case Saratoga would draw interest but Belmont and the Little A will be NO BID, giving the State the ammunition it needs to sell the underlyng land using a best use argument.

    Thats the blueprint for NY racing’s demise. Thank Charlie.

  • The racing community has been masterfully divided by Governor Cuomo. Unless, the racing community unites and shows some strength, the outcome will not be a good one. Racing is at a crossroads here and everyone needs to help NY racing take control of its own fate. Or help it have some say in the outcome. I have rarely witnessed politics as devious as this.

  • Figless

    Yes Nancy NYRA biggest problem IS and always has been the State, both from a regulatory and tax (takeout) perspective. NYRA certainly made their share of errors (OTB, $8M, non-existent internal controls), the founders passed away and the inheritors used the place as a private club dropping the ball along the way, but it is simply a failed business model the way it is currently structured. Any other business that employed as many folks as NYRA would be given substantial tax breaks, but not Racing, Albany not only bleeds it but competes with it through the lottery and OTB’s. IF Albany reasonably deregulated racing, merged OTB’s with Racing, and completely eliminated their share of the takeout, instead taxing on net profits, the sport would grow exponentially creating jobs and increased tax revenues. But no, they are addicted to the current revenue stream and the patronage jobs.

  • Charlie, never had chance. If he didn’t give the rights of the land to the State, the Governor would stepped in and taken it away. The focus is on the wrong person. In the end Charles Hayward was inconsequential, as the Governor could have rolled over him at any point. I still believe the Governor has masterfully divided the community. Oh well, maybe it was too divided already.

  • wallyhorse

    The one thing that may prevent Cuomo from going overboard here is that I suspect as it’s no secret he wants to run for President in 2016, he along with every other potential candidate (except for Hillary) is going to be heavily scrutinized by the national Democratic Party leaders.  They know regardless of what happens this November, 2016 is going to be a completely different animal and they know full well that a minuscule issue (to most of the country and those outside racing) like what Cuomo may be looking to do with NYRA could wind up being something that if we have a repeat of 2000 could actually wind up being the deciding issue, much like Elian Gonzalez was (in the eyes of many people) in the state of Florida, which Bush won by just over 500 votes, largely because of Cuban-Americans voting for Bush after Clinton did not intervene to their satisfaction, costing Al Gore the White House then. 

    Florida could play a role like that again in 2016 if Cuomo wound up the Democratic nominee because of how big the breeding industry is there, and the large number of Florida Breds who race at NYRA tracks.  In this case, if Cuomo does the wrong thing with NYRA and it indirectly harms the Florida breeders, they could turn around in 2016 and if everything else breaks like it did in 2000 could be the ones who cost Cuomo the White House.  That’s why I feel except for Hillary, ALL of the potential Democratic candidates for President are going to be watched and scrutinized very carefully by the party leaders over the next three-plus years, meaning Cuomo may have to be a lot more careful with how he handles this issue in case he did win the nominee and it wound up being the issue (no matter how small it may seem elsewhere) that in an extremely close race did decide Florida and the Presidential election.

  • Juan

    The sad thing Is that NYracing has shat on the horsepayer for so long that they would be lucky to find a couple of dozen players to support them.

  • ziels

    NY racing politics deciding the 2016 election through Florida?! Slow your roll, son.

  • wallyhorse

    You would think otherwise, but I’m sure the breeding farms in Florida are going to be watching what happens in New York very carefully as will such farms in Kentucky and Maryland.  The latter two states, however, don’t carry nearly the weight nor along with New York as being a swing state in Presidential elections that Florida has proven to be.  

    Almost any adult remembers what happened in Florida 12 years ago when Elian Gonzalez in the eyes of many was what won Florida for Bush.  The Democratic Party knows that ONE issue in ONE state can decide a Presidential election as was the case in 2000, and if the breeding farms in Florida are harmed by any actions Cuomo takes, they will remember that come election time if Cuomo did win the Democratic nomination.  In this case, that kind of scrutiny will face ANY potential candidate for President (again, unless that candidate’s name is Hillary) over the next three-plus years in the Democratic Party as the party is going to want as best possible to shore up any such potential problem, especially if Florida was as close as 2000 and every other state broke the same way it did then.

  • Figless

    I was referring to Charlies takeout fiasco which silver plated the governor his excuse to void the Franchise agreement. The land deal could have, and should have, been fought earlier but I dont put that on Charlie. That would have required the NYRA trustees to have some guts, and there was the risk of being ruled against by politically appointed judges so they “compromised” and gave away the land with its inevitable result.

  • Glimmerglass

    To the premise that somehow Andrew needs to watch his P’s & Q’s with any such highest-bidder sale of NYRA or else get Presidential aspirations derailed is flawed. You’re looking it from the view of the racing community which is simply a niche group. The racing community of Florida is nothing compared to the always courted Christian voting community and therein is the key.

    The greater public, good or bad, has no qualms with higher sin taxes on booze, tobacco, etc as well as exploding the growth of the lottery. Frankly the very important voting block of religious groups wouldn’t bat an eye – and would likely encourage it – that the Government is “getting out of the racing business”. 

    Pitch that idea of NYS getting out of racing with “hey we got the maximum amount of money for it” is a sales pitch that gets more positive mileage than trying to making the Saratoga Springs community happy. Mind you that isn’t my view but its more realistic in how the Cuomo crew is viewing.

    Even within New York there isn’t going to be any blow back in negative press or supporting party leaders in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, .. if they simply sell off NYRA to say Capital Play Pty Limited of Australia (who bid previously in 2006 to replace NYRA) for $400M in cash and future dividends. Racing really doesn’t seem any more than a novelty to most New Yorkers and its not like its ending – rather the sales pitch will be “these new guys will make it better”.Add to that the already planted seeds of the woes of the racing to the general public in the New York Times. You’d swear Joe Drape was on Andy’s payroll as there is nothing but a seemingly continual barrage of “racing is bad” and you have the coals stoked for the State to have nothing to do with racing. All it takes is Andrew to sell it back to the citizens of Upstate that its reinvestment of money back into schools without having to raise taxes and it will sail through with minor grumbling. Additionally if Belmont park’s lands are partially sold off to developers its the same thing – nobody in Oneonta or Beford NY is going to give one hoot about it being done. 

    Folks who never cared for NYRA are in for a really ugly truth that the future of racing is going to change for the worse.

  • wallyhorse

    You may think that, but the Democratic Party leaders know how big of a swing state Florida can be.

    Few in New York will care about the sale and there will be little-to-no blowback from people outside racing in New York, and the same will be true in Florida, Kentucky and the other states that have the major breeding farms even though the breeders know how important New York racing is.  No state can swing as dramatically as Florida can, however, and party leaders fully remember 2000 and what happened in that election where a seemingly minor-to-nonexistent issue everywhere else (Elian Gonzalez) turned out to be THE ISSUE (in the eyes of many) that won Bush the White House.  Cuban-Americans came out in full force for Bush to get back at Bill Clinton then, costing Al Gore that election even though Gore actually won the popular vote by a 50%-47% margin.  

    Florida is the one state where their being indirectly affected by what happens with the sale of NYRA and removal of VLT funds from NYRA tracks could prove very costly for the Democrats if Cuomo did become the Democratic nominee.  If everything went the same way as 2000, it could be a small group like the breeders in Florida that then could decide the election, especially if the margin is razor-thin and even less than the 530 or so votes that Bush won Florida (and the White House) by 12 years ago.  That is why I do believe Cuomo has to watch his P’s and Q’s as while there will be little or no blowback in New York State and none other than for a few in racing nationally, people 1,200 miles or so south of Albany who’s interests could be impacted by what Cuomo does in an extremely tight race should Cuomo be the Democratic nominee could prove to be the ones who decide who is in the White House.  It happened in 2000 with Elian Gonzalez and could happen again in 2016 with Cuomo if he is not super-careful, something the Democratic Party leaders know all too well.

  • Cuomo is a charter member of “INCOMPETENTS WITH IMPUNITY.”  Sorry to say that the organization already has too many members.

  • Glimmerglass

    Let’s look at NYRA in 2012 as opposed to several years ago. What they provide for information and insight into racing puts CDI and Magna to shame. The only rival they have is Keeneland.

    Look at NYRA’s website, twitter accounts, in house video feed, youtube page, and other directly-provided information plus their rules to protect bettors with Pick 6 and Pick 4 wagering when races come off the turf – you don’t get any of that with Arlington Park, Santa Anita, Pimlico, Laurel Park, Churchill, etc.

    It’s easy to bash NYRA, but even critics need to see the changes and give credit where its due.

  • Sal Carcia

    As a remote player, the NYRA provides the most useful website in the game and the live presentation is the best of any of the other tracks. I have not been to a CDI or Stronach track, so I cannot comment on them. I do play Gulfstream (Stronach-owned) remotely and since Tim Ritvo took over, they are customer oriented with respect to the website and live feed. They also have some bettor-friendly types of wagers like the 50c pick five and 10c rainbow pick six.

  • August Song

    Fig, it was a total political set-up, pure and simple, to oust NYRA. Shame on you for believing otherwise. The New York State Racing & Wagering Board, made up of Cuomo’s political lackies, were in charge of over-seeing NYRA, and don’t you believe, otherwise. The legislation to sunset the amount of takeout on the exotics had been place a good amount of time before it was due to take effect. Yes, NYRA missed it. Charlie missed it. But, the NYSR&WB and Cuomo’s lackies chose to miss it, too. They chose to miss it on purpose, in order to blame somebody else and extract revenge. That’s what politicians do. Then, they congratulate each other on a job well done, and try and convince the clueless public of how well they’re protecting them. New York has a long history of having some of the most corrupt politicians our country has ever known. Tammany is long gone but, ask Cuomo what he did to his political cronies who were red-handed in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group bid-rigging casino scam, that cost New Yorkers and the State millions of dollars? I’ll save you the trouble. He did nothing as the Attorney General at the request of the Chief Investigator, Joseph Fitch, to consider indicting, impeaching, and prosecuting those parties involved. Cuomo has done nothing as the governor, except recommend Paterson to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board. If you’re not thoroughly convinced and incensed and don’t consider what Cuomo has done by “aiding and abetting” others, who happened to be his political cronies, you may just be part of that clueless public, that keeps re-electing corrupt politicians? Is it any wonder some of those are now implicated in the Vito Lopez sexual harassment payoff scandal, that again involves Cuomo’s cronies? Again, Cuomo says and does nothing. Absolute power corrupting absolutely.

  • LongTimeEconomist

    As a seven-months-a-year resident of Florida, I think your post is far-fetched and totally improbable.

  • LongTimeEconomist

    Andy was devious even before he became Governor.

  • wallyhorse

    Improbable, almost certainly, however, 2000 was also considered “improbable” and the Democratic leaders likely would try to avoid a repeat of that at all costs, which is why I see Cuomo and every other potential candidate running for President in 2016 coming (except Hillary) under very high scrutiny by the party leaders.  That’s why I feel Cuomo may be put into positions he never intended to be in due to his political ambitions.

  • August Song

    An immediate read:  http://leftatthegate.blogspot….

  • Janeal

    Let us not paint the NYRA as a saint. Remember the short weighting of jockeys at Saratoga, NYRA executives running their family vacations as a business expense, using Horseman’s money, past posting in races, take out problems, etc…. 

  • Janfis

    Please don’t let Stronach buy it.

  • Sal Carcia

    Janeal, the clerks of scales were cleared on any wrongdoing and I believe have civl suits outstanding against their accusers. With that said, giving jockey’s breaks is done at every track, especially in poor weather conditions. I don’t know about the vacation stuff. Disputes over horseman’s money is ongoing throughout the country. It usually resolves itself over time, but is always brought up in contract disputes. The 15 second delay the tellers have to cancel bets is an invitation for the “speed boys”. They usually bet the horses that take the lead. It’s not that they are betting after the race. Nevertheless, it’s not fair to the other bettors. This might also occur in betting outlets outside the track. Horseracing allows for computers in offshore sites to have direct access to betting pools. To me, this is a bigger issue.

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