Spitzer Recommendation May Not Come Sept. 4

Spitzer Recommendation May Not Come Sept. 4
Photo: Skip Dickstein
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer

In an Aug. 25 news conference at Saratoga Race Course, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said he may not meet his Sept. 4 deadline to recommend which organization should receive the franchise to run racing at the Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga racetracks.

“We're going to try very hard to stick to the Sept. 4 deadline, but I think the thing to keep in mind is that a legislative enactment is required,” Spitzer told reporters before the Travers. “Sept. 4 will not be a moment when I simply say, ‘This is the answer.’”

The right to run racing at the three New York tracks currently belongs to the New York Racing Association.  It is among four bidders interested in pursuing the franchise, of which NYRA’s legal ownership expires Dec. 31.

The Blood-Horse previously reported that Spitzer was considering closing Aqueduct and selling all it in full to developers or keeping part of it for a VLT casino. The plan also included the winterization of Belmont. Another possibility would be to split the franchise into two components: one for racing and the other for gambling and real estate development.

“We’re looking at all the pieces with the appropriate intensity and scrutiny,” said Spitzer. “We’re trying to match the expertise bidders have with the skills it takes to run the tracks. We’re looking at what the various entities can provide over the long term – but nobody wants to extend beyond the deadline excessively.”

Spitzer said he would prefer not to extend NYRA’s ability to run the franchise past the Dec. 31 expiration, noting such an action would “indicate inability to make a decision.”

He added, “Nobody will tolerate an expiration of a franchise such that there is no legal structure to permit the sport to continue. We want to make sure business goes forward and racing at the track booms and does the best it can.”

The organizations bidding for the franchise are NYRA, Empire Racing Associates, Excelsior Racing, and the Australian-based Capital Play.

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