Former NYRA member returns to racing board

Adirondack Trust Co. President Charles Wait has been appointed to the New York Racing Association bo

Adirondack Trust Co. President Charles Wait has been appointed to the New York Racing Association board two years after he stepped down to avoid a conflict of interest.

Wait was elected to the 20-member board by current board members and said he wants to be back on the board because the thoroughbred racing situation in New York is dire.

“I wouldn’t feel good if I stood by,” Wait, 58, said Monday, when NYRA made the announcement.

“We are thrilled that Charles will be rejoining the NYRA Board of Directors,” NYRA Chairman C. Steven Duncker said in a statement. “His wealth of experience in both the financial and racing spheres makes him an ideal person for the board.”

Wait said Saratoga Springs needs another strong voice on the board. John Hendrickson and Dennis Dammerman are also Saratoga residents and property owners who serve on the board.

“This is the single most important issue facing my community right now. I felt I could perhaps be more effective if I was on the board knowing the circumstances first hand,” Wait said.

He resigned from the board in 2008 after 23 years because he said then-Sen. Joseph Bruno was delaying a new franchise agreement with NYRA to run three of the state’s thoroughbred race tracks, including Saratoga Race Course. The responsibility for that franchise agreement rested on three lawmakers: Bruno, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Wait publicly spoke against Bruno’s inaction, writing a letter to the bank’s shareholders, and stepped down from the NYRA board, saying he didn’t want to damage NYRA by speaking his own opinion.

Wait now feels he can serve on the board without conflict.

“I don’t feel conflicted with my own representative the way I did with Joe Bruno.” Bruno’s successor, Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, is in the Senate minority and does not hold a leadership position like Bruno did.

In the last two years, state leaders twice named bidders to run video slot facilities at Aqueduct Racetrack, but then both of those deals were withdrawn and the bidding process restarted. The lack of payments from the proposed VLTs and the insolvency of New York City OTB have left NYRA strapped for cash, and more lucrative purses in neighboring states are luring breeders.

“How can the state be so broken that when they need money they’re ignoring it?” Wait said. Officials have said the state would make $1 million a day from the VLTs.

Wait said as he takes the position on the board he will educate himself first and then speak with state lawmakers.

“I will make sure that our elected representatives and state officials understand what a dire situation this is not only for Saratoga, not only for upstate New York, not only for Long Island, but for agribusiness of the state.”

Feed stores, farmers that grow hay and grain for horses, veterinarians and farriers all benefit from the racing industry, he noted.

Wait also is a past chairman of the Greater Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the New York Bankers Association and the Saratoga Springs City Center convention facility. He now serves as director of the New York Bankers Association and as a member of the Saratoga County Water Authority.

Wait has also held positions on the board of Skidmore College, the Empire State College Foundation, the Adirondack Chapter of the American Red Cross, the New York Business Development Corporation and the Yaddo Corporation.

He replaces Lucy Young Hamilton, who had served on the NYRA board since May 2001. She is co-owner of Overbrook Farm in Lexington, Ky.

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