NYRA Planning for the Future

The New York Racing Association’s board of directors is discussing reprivatizing operations. The long-term transformation will include the development of a fully sustainable, three-year business model, according to NYRA.

The New York Racing Association Reorganization Board is mapping its future and the future of three iconic racetracks in the Empire State? Aqueduct, Saratoga Springs and Belmont Park.

At a public meeting held earlier this month, officials discussed the potential long-term legal and governance structure of the organization, which oversees the three tracks. The NYRA board must submit its recommendations to the governor and legislators by April 2015.

President and CEO Christopher Kay said the association is on track to realize its first operating surplus since 2000 thanks to cost-cutting measures.  “As you may recall, we called for an operating surplus of $250,000, exclusive of the VLT funds, for our operating budget when we came to you last December,” Kay told the board. “I’m pleased to be able to report to you that we will do much better than that, perhaps six times better than that, with a projected surplus in the neighborhood of $1.5 million for 2014.”

Kay added the projected surplus for 2015 would be greater than that of 2014, and the projected increase of surplus for 2016 would be greater than in 2015. “Our business plan reflects a business headed in the right direction,” he said.

The Daily Racing Form added that all-sources handle at the recently concluded Belmont meet was down 9.8 percent, or $32 million, compared with the 2013 Belmont fall meet.

“Business has been no better at Aqueduct through the first two weeks of the meet,” the DRF reported. For the first two weeks of the meet, average daily all-sources handle was down 22 percent from the same period last year.

The DRF added that there has been a lot of speculation since Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a new NYRA board in late 2012 that the authority would consolidate racing into one downstate track. Cuomo has said the Aqueduct site would be a good place for low-income housing.

Since the current board is only “temporary and transitional,” Kay said, “it would not be appropriate to make any decisions that will have such a long-term and permanent effect on not only NYRA but the communities we serve and the horse-racing industry in this state.

“Instead, if there is going to be any change?and we’re not commenting at this point if there is? that would be the responsibility of the next board, the board that will control NYRA’s future for decades to come,” he added.

NYRA has invested $14 million over the last year or so into Aqueduct. The tracks’ 2013-14 winter meet lost $11.9 million, exceeding the budgeted loss by $2 million. “We can’t afford to spend more money to operate on a daily basis than we generate in revenue,” Kay said.