New York state, in the first full day controlling the New York Racing Association, said it will review a tentative deal track officials previously made to replace United Tote as NYRA's totalizator contractor.
A state panel that oversees NYRA's finances okayed a 30-day extension—to a contract set to expire in nine days—for United Tote to continue its services on a temporary basis while a potential 10-year contract with a new company is considered.
Officials have not publicly identified the possible replacement company, but AmTote International, part of The Stronach Group, is believed to be the firm selected in the past couple months by NYRA following a contract process that began earlier this year. That was before the state moved to take control of the now-defunct NYRA board.
The not-for-profit racing company put the new contract on hold, officials said Oct. 19, to await consideration of the deal by the new NYRA board and the Franchise Oversight Board. That state-controlled new NYRA board came into life a day earlier after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders unveiled a new panel of directors who, under legislation approved in June, will run the embattled NYRA for at least the next three years.
Ellen McClain, the NYRA president whose job is being put out for a national replacement search by the new NYRA board, defended the short-term nature of the deal with United Tote in the face of criticism by one member of the Franchise Oversight Board who questioned NYRA's handling of the matter.
McClain told the oversight board that NYRA had notified United Tote, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., that it had preliminarily selected another vendor to run its tote operations. She did not name the possible replacement. "We did tell Churchill that (the) process had come to fruition,'' McClain said.
"I'm sorry for your discomfort. It's been a very uncomfortable nine months,'' McClain said in response to an oversight board member's complaints about the contract's handling. Another board member said NYRA's hands were partly tied in the matter because of the uncertainty over its governance situation.
"With all due respect, we don't control everything,'' a frustrated McClain said.
A day earlier, the Cuomo administration said the new NYRA board will be launching a nationwide search for a new NYRA president. McClain took over earlier this year after the NYRA board fired Charles Hayward following a betting takeout scandal at NYRA, an episode that served as one of the tipping points for the state to take over control of the not-for-profit racing group.
The resolution adopted by the Franchise Oversight Board, a panel created several years ago to monitor NYRA's finances, said NYRA is trying to enter into a new 10-year contract for tote services, but that it is now awaiting an okay by the new NYRA board. Officials suggested a longer temporary extension with United Tote could be considered beyond the 30 days they approved.
The franchise board meeting was run by Robert Williams, a respected longtime state government racing and wagering lawyer who was named by Cuomo to head the state's Lottery Division over the summer.
NYRA confirmed, after two days of various inquiries, its choices to the new board that, by law, is set to expire in three years. The old board, under the state law passed in June, was given five seats on the new NYRA reorganization panel.
Holdovers heading to the new board are: former NYRA Chairman C. Steven Duncker, as well as Stuart Janney, Stuart Subotnick, Charles Wait, and Barry Ostrager. With the holdovers Cuomo and legislative leaders named to the new NYRA board on Thursday, it means means that nine of the 17 members of the reconstituted board were part of the former NYRA board.
In pushing for the state takeover during the end of this year's legislative session in June, Cuomo was highly critical of NYRA's leadership.