NYRA Keeps Horse Racing Franchise

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Since 1955, the New York Racing Association has been in charge of running three of the state’s horse racing tracks, namely Aqueduct, Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park. In 2006 however, the New York Racing Association, or NYRA, declared bankruptcy and have been operating under the bankruptcy protection act, Chapter 11. At the end of 2007, the franchise held by the NYRA had expired and they continued to operate the thoroughbred horse racing enterprise on an extension, awaiting the outcome of a bid for a renewed franchise.

Many groups have been fighting to take over the reins from the New York Racing Association, seeing them as a failed franchise. The NYRA did not hang in the towel, and to the surprise of many senators and groups, the New York Racing Association managed to be awarded the franchise for another twenty five years. Of course, there were changes made to the new franchise, which were accepted by the NYRA, and will hopefully ensure the smooth running of the thoroughbred racing circuit in the state until the new franchise expires in 2033.

Under the new franchise, the state has given the twenty five year franchise to the New York Racing Association and has also given them $105 million to settle their debts and to dig them out of their current bankruptcy position. The association owes states like Nassau County, $21 million. The installation of VLTs (Video Lottery Terminals) at Belmont Park has been disapproved for the time being, while $250 million in bond financing was awarded to Aqueduct for the installation of VLTs. The majority of revenue made from the video lottery terminals will then go towards supporting harness racing tracks and struggling horse farms in the state. In order for the franchise deal to be completed, the New York Racing Association signed over all three properties, on which the tracks are built, to the state.

A new twenty five member committee, of which NYRA will be able to select fourteen members of its choice, the governor will elect seven members and the majorities in the Senate and the Assembly will each nominate two members, was also created. The NYRA will also be subjected to performance and financial reviews every five years, which will be done by the state.

Although the decision to reinstate the racing franchise to the New York Racing Association upset a few senators and Assembly members, there were those who felt that giving the NYRA another chance at running the thoroughbred racing circuit was only fair, given the long standing history between the association and the racing industry. There are most certainly a few issues that will be addressed along the way, but it is hoped that the new changes will breathe new life into the association and into the industry.