New York Bidding Group Partially Identified

Part of the new "mystery group" bidding on the franchise to operated Thoroughbred racing in New York was revealed March 8.

Officials confirmed it is a joint venture that will include Steve Wynn, a major Las Vegas casino developer who last year expressed interest in the franchise but never submitted a formal bid. He is being joined by Vornado Realty chief Steve Roth, a billionaire, and California real estate developer Richard Bronson, who runs Bronson Cos. The connections were confirmed by Sid Davidoff, a New York City lawyer and lobbyist who is representing the group.
Despite the state’s insistence on making this a transparent bidding process, the joint venture added that its partners also includes “a major track operator with substantial experience in running thoroughbred racing facilities.’’ Officials with the group declined to identify that operator.

The previous day, the Spitzer administration released the names of six groups – four that previously bid on the franchise and two new companies – that will be part of the next phase of the ongoing battle among some of the industry’s elite players to become the new operator of Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga racetracks.

The other new company interested in the franchise is Catskill Off-Track Betting Corp., which is considered a long-shot by industry insiders but could merge with one of the other bidding groups. The other group was not identified except as Thoroughbred Racing NY.

New York Gov. Eliot Spinzer recently said he did not feel obligated to follow a non-binding recommendation by a state panel created before he became governor. That panel recently tapped Excelsior Racing Associates as its choice to run racing in the state. The group’s partners include New York Yankees executive Steve Swindal and casino developer Richard Fields.

Also vying is Empire Racing Associates, which placed second behind Excelsior in the recent bidding competition. Empire is a consortium of New York horsemen, Magna Entertainment, Churchill Downs, Delaware North, Woodbine and others. NYRA, which has had numerous run-ins with Spitzer over the years when he was the state attorney general, will also be taking part in the new process. Another company, Capital Play, an Australian firm, originally submitted a bid that was rejected for technical reasons by the state panel. It, too, said it wants Spitzer to consider it as a potential franchise holder.

The Spitzer administration expects a decision before lawmakers end their 2007 session, which is scheduled for the end of June.

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