Plan Requires NYRA to Repay Purse Fund

Plan Requires NYRA to Repay Purse Fund
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The New York Racing Association would be legally required to reimburse horsemen in the state for the millions it borrowed from their purse fund to pay for its operations, according to a proposal being quietly shopping around to state legislators.

If the money is not re-paid, the state should be required to slap a lien on NYRA's properties "as a means of securing repayment of monies owed,'' according to a copy of the horsemen's proposal that was obtained by the Blood-Horse. Officials with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association were not immediately available for comment.

The proposed legislation comes after NYRA last November agreed to create a new account solely for maintaining purse winnings. That came after it was revealed the cash-strapped NYRA had run up a tab of $14 million against the purse account. Richard Bomze, president of the 5,000-member horsemen's group, said last fall that the amount had grown to $20 million.

But sources say the horsemen's group is not pleased with the new system, and notes the slow pace by which the money is being replenished. There have been no guarantees when the horsemen might get the total purses account refunded.

Lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly are studying the proposal, officials say. Whether the measure is ever enacted in whole or in part, its surfacing suggests continued problems between NYRA and the horsemen's organization.

Sources say the horsemen's group wants the state to appoint an overseer for a separate account into which purse money would be deposited. They are also looking for a separate account that would hold deposits from NYRA from the pool of purse funds they dipped into over the past several years. If that pot isn't replenished, a lien could be sought or NYRA could be required to post bonds to cover the debt, sources say. It also directs that an audit of NYRA be performed by an independent monitor to determine precisely how much money NYRA raided from the purse fund to pay for operational expenses.

"The bill ensures that horse owners and trainers will receive moneys properly due and owing to them,'' a memo accompanying the bill proposal states.

The 21-page plan also includes a number of proposed reforms for NYRA, which is now operating under the eyes of a court-appointed monitor. Those include the addition of an extra NYRA trustee, who would be appointed by the governor upon the recommendation of the horsemen's association. The member would not have voting power, but could attend all NYRA meetings. The plan also subjects NYRA to the state's sunshine open meetings law and would make it impossible for NYRA to keep private, as it has in the past, its financial records.

The provisions, according to a horsemen's memo, are intended to make NYRA "more accountable to the betting public and the racing industry.'' The horsemen's plan says NYRA, by dipping into the purse account, "has threatened the future of racing in this state.''

"This bill directs that immediate action be undertaken to correct past wrongs, and that a system guaranteeing future payments be put in place so that this threat should never again occur,'' the memo sent to lawmakers states.

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