Saratoga County

NYRA’s VIP ‘club rooms’ approved

The New York Racing Association was given approval on Monday for special “members-only” club room

PHOTOGRAPHER:

The New York Racing Association was given approval on Monday for special “members-only” club rooms at its three race tracks for high betting NYRA customers.

The “Sunny Jim [Fitzsimmons]” room is currently being prepared at the Aqueduct Race Track in Queens for Rewards Players Club members who wagered at least $10,000 in 2007, according to Charles Hayward, NYRA president and CEO.

A similar club room will be built at the Belmont Park race track over the winter, Hayward said.

“We have not found a space for that at Saratoga,” Hayward said. He said the location of the Rewards Players Club room at the Saratoga Race Course on Union Avenue is currently being discussed by NYRA officials.

Hayward said such a room could be in place by the 2009 Saratoga racing season but nothing has been finalized.

The state Racing and Wagering Board approved the new club rooms when it met Monday in Schenectady.

“The club would offer daily concierge and waitress services,” says the Racing and Wagering Board statement on the new rooms.

“Minors would be allowed in the club area provided they are accompanied by a parent or guardian,” the board said.

Hayward said the NYRA Rewards plan is an “account wagering platform” that allows horse racing enthusiasts to bet at the track, by telephone, or by using their personal computer.

“There are various level of cash awards,” Hayward said about the Rewards program. He said the rewards are based on points accrued per dollar wagered.

“Rewards” will given to those who bet at least $2,500 on the horses in the prior quarter. Each member would receive an access card and also a voucher booklet on a quarterly basis.

The coupons and vouchers will offer the preferred horse player amenities like reserved parking, food and beverages, guest passes, cocktail parties and advanced, preferred ticketing, according to the Racing and Wagering Board documentation that was approved on Monday.

“It’s a good way to try to stimulate business at the track and keep people coming back,” said Joseph Mahoney, a spokesman for the Racing and Wagering Board.

Mahoney said NYRA’s success in its new 25-year franchise “ultimately will bring improvements to all the tracks.”

He said it makes sense for NYRA to reward its best customers with the members-only club rooms. But Mahoney said the Racing and Wagering Board also wants to make sure the racing fan who brings his own lawn chair to the track and sits in the backyard also has a nice experience at the race track.

“We are trying to keep racing exciting for everybody,” Mahoney said. “We are not just concerned with the people with the big wallets.”

The initial qualification for people to qualify for the Rewards Players Club rooms at the tracks is that they wagered at least $10,000 in 2007.

The Racing and Wagering Board staff recommended that the board approve NYRA’s request with the condition that approval is granted under the premise that membership is granted to “all who have wagered more than $10,000 in the prior year.”

“NYRA shall notify the board when changes are made to the qualifying parameters to gain access to the club,” said the staff recommendations.

NYRA must also keep detailed accounting records for all revenues and costs associated with the club, “including all benefits and complimentaries received by members or guests,” according to the state Racing and Wagering Board.

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