NYRA needs long-term solution
May 25, 2010 | 2769 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) crossed the finish line just in time this week, landing a last-minute $25 million loan from the state to continue operations.

NYRA had sent out layoff notices to its 1,400 employees, and threatened to shut down operations after the Belmont Stakes if the state didn't come through with a loan.

The deal was hailed as a must-do maneuver by state legislators- who have yet to adopt a state budget, which was due April 1 (NYRA provides the cash-strapped state with a steady source of revenue)- and by horse racing enthusiasts.

Without the money, the race tracks at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga, which has hosted a storied race each year since the mid-1800's, would have closed. Now they'll remain open (Aqueduct's season is already over), which is a good, perhaps even a necessary, short-term solution.

But NYRA will still face serious budget problems next year. And the state still has select a developer for Aqueduct, a bidding process it has bungled terribly so far.

The racing association has to repay the state the loan by April of next year. Can it do that? Hopefully, but if not, NYRA could find itself in the same position next spring of having to go hat in hand to the state for a handout just to remain open.

And things could get much worse.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has hit NYRA with 14 violation notices for environmental infractions. In Queens, the DEC believes environmental mismanagement at Aqueduct resulted in the discharge of horse manure and other pollutants into Jamaica Bay.

This unacceptable. At some point, it will need to be resolved. If NYRA is forced to cleanup after itself, that could mean another expense for an association that has run itself into the ground.

Where will it end? At what point will NYRA develop a sustainable long-term business model, one that will allow it to shake its dependency on the state?

In NYRA's defense, it claims it is owed some $17 million from the state-run New York City Off-TRack Betting Corporation. But even if that's true, and it were paid back, the association would still fall short of the money it needs to keep operating.

The OTB debt is not a silver bullet solution here. There's isn't one. Racing officials just have to hunker down and come up with some better ideas about how to run the business of racing.
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