New York Racing Association President and CEO Charles Hayward was fired Friday in response to an ongoing state investigation that alleges he did nothing to stop an error that cost bettors millions of dollars.
Hayward and NYRA Vice President and General Counsel Patrick Kehoe were fired by the company’s Board of Directors after being suspended earlier in the week when an interim report from the state Racing and Wagering board was released.
The report revolved around the incorrect takeout percentage that NYRA used on its races for 15 months, during which time $8.5 million due to bettors was withheld by various betting vendors. When the mistake was revealed in December, Hayward maintained it was an inadvertent error that NYRA didn’t know about, but the interim report cites emails that indicate Hayward knew about the error and did nothing to fix the problem.
NYRA Board of Directors Chairman Steven Duncker said in a news release that the board’s decision to fire Hayward and Kehoe was based on the feeling that they had “failed to perform their duties at a level required by the board.”
Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson said it was “unfortunate” to see Hayward leave NYRA this way. He credited Hayward with establishing good connections between NYRA and the city. NYRA operates three tracks in the state, including Saratoga Race Course.
“I thought Charlie Hayward was pivotal in the revitalization of NYRA,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he didn’t expect that the change in NYRA leadership would affect the Saratoga meet, which is set to begin in less than two months.
In Duncker’s statement, he also stressed that NYRA is cooperating fully with ongoing state investigations, which also include a review by the Inspector General’s Office.
As part of its cooperation with the state, Duncker sent a letter on Friday to state Franchise Oversight Board Chairman Robert Megna that outlined the board’s response to the racing board’s interim report. In the letter, he described the actions being taken by the board and emphasized that they were dealing with this situation with the “utmost seriousness.”
NYRA is in the process of engaging an interim general counsel to manage its legal department for the foreseeable future and is retaining outside counsel to represent the organization in the state investigations. He added that the board welcomed “further dialogue” with the state.
Duncker also addressed the possibility that NYRA could lose its franchise agreement to run racing at the tracks at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga Springs. “I want to assure you of our commitment to fulfilling NYRA’s obligations under the law and its franchise agreement, and to maintaining the integrity of its operations, and thoroughbred horseracing, in New York State,” he wrote.
The state’s Franchise Oversight Board isn’t expected to meet again until June.
The full response from NYRA to Megna and the interim report from the racing board can be found on the Gazette’s political blog Capital Region Scene.