Schenectady County

NYRA’s bankruptcy plan likely to get OK

New York Racing Association President Charles Hayward said Tuesday that he expects NYRA’s plan to em

New York Racing Association President Charles Hayward said Tuesday that he expects NYRA’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy will be approved on Monday by a federal judge in Manhattan.

But Hayward said the effective date of NYRA’s coming out of bankruptcy will likely be postponed, as it settles litigation and works out other agreements with the state.

Meanwhile, the Nonprofit Racing Association Oversight Board will meet at 1 p.m. Friday in room 143 of the Capitol. The board is expected to extend NYRA’s temporary authority to continue running New York’s three thoroughbred horse racing tracks, including Saratoga Race Course, said Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson. NYRA’s current temporary franchise to run New York racing expires Sunday, the last day of the meet at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens.

NYRA filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 2, 2006, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York. At the time, it was feuding with the administration of then Gov. George Pataki. NYRA’s ambiguous status in bankruptcy court, along with its legal claim to own the three tracks, helped persuade state leaders to grant it a new franchise, for fear of being tied up in litigation.

NYRA has held the racing franchise since 1955. At the end of 2007, its franchise expired, and was extended temporarily by the Oversight Board. In February, the state agreed to award NYRA a new 25-year franchise, in a deal which included NYRA giving up its ownership claim. But that legislation has yet to become effective.

Hook said bids are due Friday for a separate franchise to run video lottery terminals to be installed at Aqueduct. The Aqueduct VLTs are intended to generate substantial revenue for the state and NYRA. Hayward said the three bidders are Capital Play, which has extensive experience in Australian racing; Delaware North, which among other things runs the VLTs at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway (a harness track not under NYRA’s control); and the Manhattan-based SL Green Realty Corp.

Hook declined to comment on the bidders for the Aqueduct VLT franchise.

He said, “The primary factors that we expect will be considered are the financial commitment each firm is prepared to make and their business plan for operating a first class VLT facility that will generate the most revenue for the state.”

The Aqueduct VLT franchise award can only be made after Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, sign a memorandum of understanding.

Hayward and Hook both said they expect the state and NYRA to reach agreement on remaining issues that will lead to the 25-year franchise becoming effective.

“I believe we’ll get the support of the state,” Hayward said. He said state leaders will be “highly motivated” to agree on Aqueduct VLTs, because they know the state needs the revenue.

After more than two years of debate and delay, and several missed deadlines, the NYRA franchise legislation was passed by the Legislature on Feb. 13. It was not signed until several days later by then Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was out of town on the 13th, staying at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel. That was the night he had an assignation with a prostitute known as Kristen, which led to his resignation the next month.

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