NYRA notes first-quarter wagering dip

Wagering on New York Racing Association races was off by about $80 million in the first quarter of t

Wagering on New York Racing Association races was off by about $80 million in the first quarter of the year, largely due to fewer race days and reduced shipping of horses to New York, according to recently released financial information.

There were 51 race days during the first three months at the Aqueduct Racetrack, 13 fewer than the same period last year, with a resulting 16.6 percent drop in total wagering to $407 million. The shortened racing calendar included six dates canceled at the request of NYRA, which said it was due to safety concerns, while critics alleged it was because of fewer horses being shipped to the track.

NYRA’s auditor, KPMG, which released the financial statements in advance of a NYRA Reorganization Board meeting Monday, attributed the reduced wagering to the shorter racing schedule and decrease in shippers. The reduction in shippers was blamed on medicine rule changes approved at the end of the year, a rationale that is widely accepted in the racing industry.

NYRA’s 2013 budget anticipated a $10.4 million drop in wagering across the entire Aqueduct meet because of the new medication rules.

Despite the down numbers, performance at Aqueduct was strong compared to racing in the rest of the country. NYRA represented 5 percent of the total racing days in the country, but offered 10 percent of the purses and generated 12 percent of the wagering on thoroughbred races in the country. Additionally, money invested in purses on NYRA races continued to result in more wagering than the industry average.

During the first three months, NYRA’s operating revenues and expenses both decreased compared to the same period last year, but revenues declined more starkly than expenses. The resulting difference was a $5.8 million deficit.

The financial information compiled by KPMG also includes some warnings for NYRA’s future, which could be threatened by future regulations, casinos in the region, instability among off-track betting corporations and negotiations with organized labor.

Monday’s NYRA meeting will also include a review of the search for a CEO, a position that has been vacant for more than a year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last year this should be the first priority of the new board, which had its first meeting in December 2012.

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