The chairman of the New York Racing Association says negotiations with Gov. Eliot Spitzer and legislative leaders on a permanent extension of the state's franchise for thoroughbred racing is "going backward" and a halt to racing at Aqueduct this week is likely.
In a statement issued this afternoon, C. Steven Duncker said NYRA and state officials met over the weekend to review a draft of the new franchise.
"Unfortunately, this review process indicated that the franchise discussions are going backward, not forward," Duncker said. "The areas of concern continue to be the economic model for the future of racing in New York and governance."
The draft agreement disclosed by state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, last week called for a 25-year franchise with $105 million in state money to bring NYRA out of bankruptcy, pay bills and improve race purses.
"It is essential that this legislation provides a proper framework to ensure that New York thoroughbred racing maintains its leadership position for the life of the new franchise," Ducnker said. "The bill does not provide the proper business model and economic terms that permits NYRA to emerge from bankruptcy nor does it correct the broken business model of thoroughbred racing in New York, a broken model that can only worsen and further imperil this industry under the legislation currently proposed."
In addition, the NYRA board would be reconstituted to include 21 members, 11 appointed by NYRA and 10 by Spitzer and legislative leaders.
"While we agree that the NYRA board should be streamlined, as we earlier resolved with the governor in a memorandum of understanding last September, the newly proposed structure would politicize the board and endanger the very reforms that have been accomplished to date," Duncker said. "Such a significant step backwards would serve neither the best interests of the racing industry nor the people of New York state."
NYRA officials have said that unless a permanent franchise agreement is worked out, it would shut down racing at Aqueduct on Thursday. Duncker said that prospect remains realistic.
"We find the current state of negotiation to be pointing irrevocably towards a cessation of racing this week," he said.