Capital Region racing fans won’t have to go to the Saratoga Race Course to watch live thoroughbred racing this summer.
An agreement has been reached to allow for the live broadcast of New York Racing Association races, which includes Saratoga, on the channel run by the Capital Off-Track Betting Corp. Prior to this arrangement, the channel, which is channel 12 for local Time Warner subscribers, aired races on a delay.
During a meeting of the state’s Franchise Oversight Board in the Capitol on Wednesday, Capital OTB President and CEO John Signor said people who watch the channel have been clamoring for this change for years. He noted the station reaches 300,000 people.
“I think it is the right thing to do,” he said, adding it demonstrated respect for fans.
NYRA spokesman Eric Wing wrote in an email the group is delighted about the live race broadcasts.
“There is not a more enthusiastic and knowledgeable fan base anywhere in the country,” he said.
Signor credited recent outreach efforts by NYRA’s executive management with this success, as well as generally good recent relations with the OTB organizations. NYRA and the OTBs have occasionally been at odds in the past over money.
During Monday’s meeting, it was also decided the Franchise Oversight Board, a key overseer of NYRA, will be responsible for reviewing NYRA’s development plan for the Saratoga Race Course. Its main responsibility will be assessing the environmental impact of at least 22 projects NYRA has placed on a wish list.
Wednesday’s meeting was the last for Franchise Oversight Board member Richard Aurelio, who has been extremely critical of NYRA during his time as an overseer. His exit was timely, though, because the final meeting included a discussion of NYRA’s comprehensive marketing plan, which is one of the areas where he has found NYRA to be lacking.
NYRA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Rodnell Workman talked to the board about plans to reintroduce NYRA, add more value to the experience at its three tracks and increase wagering education to grow the sport. Part of this effort includes highlighting second-tier NYRA races and year-round messaging so the three tracks continue to be relevant.
Despite decreased attendance for Belmont Stakes day, which saw a 44 percent attendance drop from last year and 14 percent from 2011, Workman said promotions that generated excitement before the big day should lead to long-term growth in attendance and wagering at NYRA’s tracks. “These aren’t quick fixes,” he said.
The presentation pleased Aurelio, who credited NYRA with having the right focus on attracting new fans and improving the experience of current consumers.
The meeting concluded with presentations from the Nassau and Capital OTBs, which included Signor calling for changes to laws governing the OTBs that he said are outdated. He argued restrictions on creating reserve funds and payment models to harness tracks that now have video gambling are unfair burdens.
Signor also lamented wagering OTBs were losing to out-of-state online sites and asked for a legal remedy that would restrict where New Yorkers could bet online.
Members of the Franchise Oversight Board didn’t think any solutions could be advanced in this legislative session, which ends June 20, but they promised to make recommendations for the future that could help the OTBs.