Negotiators in New York have agreed to another temporary extension to keep racing operating while talks continue on a longer-term franchise deal to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga, officials said Jan. 21.
The current temporary deal expires Jan. 23. The new extension will permit the New York Racing Association to keep racing going at Aqueduct until Feb. 13. The parties had discussed a longer extension--until the end of March--which would have wrapped the franchise talks into more divisive and unrelated discussions over the state's upcoming budget.
The sides have agreed in principle to let NYRA continue running racing. But they are still discussing the length of the franchise, as well as what other private companies could be involved in other aspects of the franchise.
Also still on the table is who will run the planned Aqueduct video lottery terminal casino, whether a casino will be permitted at Belmont, and the shape of a state entity to oversee NYRA and the franchise operation.
When agreement can't be reached, such extensions are common. And industry observers said they wouldn't be surprised if yet another extension is needed before Feb. 13. NYRA has said to be opposed to long-term extensions for fear it would take pressure off Gov. Eliot Spitzer and lawmakers to broker a long-term deal.
In a statement issued Jan. 21, NYRA said industry stakeholders "are relieved" that racing at Aqueduct will not be interrupted for the next few weeks, but "all would agree that the next step needs to be the awarding of a long-term racing franchise in the very near future."
“While we are disappointed that a final resolution has not been reached, we appreciate the diligent efforts of the Spitzer administration,” NYRA chairman C. Steven Duncker said in a statement. “The latest temporary agreement provides the necessary time to enact legislation granting a long-term racing franchise.”