Saratoga County

Saratoga County supervisors back returning NYRA to private control

Saratoga County will urge the state Legislature to approve a new law restoring the New York Racing A

Saratoga County will urge the state Legislature to approve a new law restoring the New York Racing Association to private control before it adjourns in June.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Arthur “Mo” Wright was authorized Thursday to write a letter to local state legislators urging action, though leaving the details of the bill to the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The action, and a recent resolution of support passed by the Saratoga Springs City Council, come as it appears NYRA may be ready to return to private control after four years under state supervision due to past financial losses and management scandals.

Cuomo, who extended a three-year control plan for a fourth year in 2015, has not asserted that NYRA should remain under state control this year. The NYRA reorganization oversight board voted in April to recommend a reprivatization plan that would have the majority of a new board privately controlled, though the state would continue to pick some board members.

That recommendation came as NYRA has turned a profit for two years in a row, and drew record numbers to Saratoga Race Course for last summer’s meet, which saw Triple Crown winner American Pharoah defeated in the Travers Stakes.

“Management has come in and made the tough choices to make it profitable,” said Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, a member of Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing.

Local sentiment has favored the return of NYRA to a private non-profit organization because of the need for long-term planning for improvements at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, and to address the larger issues of the horse racing industry in an era when faster-paced forms of gambling are readily available.

It isn’t known what would happen if the Legislature adjourns in June without acting on a privatization bill.

“They’ve met all the conditions. To do anything other than reprivatize would be the state going back on its word,” said County Administrator Spencer P. Hellwig.

Shimkus suggested the county simply ask for a return to private control, without setting conditions. He recommended the county remain neutral on whether the law should mandate someone from Saratoga Springs be included on the NYRA board.

“We think it’s important to have representation. That said, it doesn’t have to be in the law,” Shimkus said.

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