NYRA Projects Decrease in 2011 Net Revenue

NYRA had gone to court to try to block release of its 2011 financial plan.

The New York Racing Association’s net revenue is projected to decrease 3.9% this year while its wages and benefits are up 5%, according to its 2011 budget that was released July 15 by state officials.

The budget for NYRA, which had originally gone to court to try to block release of its financial plan, details a whole range of its internal financial plans for the year, including track improvements, Belmont Stakes broadcast rights and plans to expand its simulcast production facilities.

The budget was submitted to the Franchise Oversight Board, a state panel chaired by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Megna, who has shown increasing intolerance by what he has publicly described as NYRA’s stinginess over its financial details.

The Blood-Horse obtained a copy of NYRA’s 2010 and 2011 budgets.

The 2011 plan was revised in January to try to take into account new troubles after the shutdown the previous month of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. Among the changes, for instance, was revising its 2011 projected overall net loss from $7.4 million to $15.9 million.

The documents include, though, additional revenues by more on-track betting after the NYCOTB and more spending on marketing to lure former NYCOTB bettors to NYRA.

Operating expenses grew from to a revised $141.6 million, in part because of 3% wage hikes given employees in March, which cost an additional $3 million, as well as $4 million in higher benefits, up 27%, in large part because of rising health care premium costs.

Operating expenses from 2010 to 2011 are up 7.9%, NYRA reported.

Page after page of the 2011 budget includes a stamped message from NYRA asking that the budget not be released by the state. NYRA went to court, and recently dropped the idea, after the Albany Times Union requested release of the NYRA budget documents from the state.

The documents show higher costs on such things as busses, which NYRA hired to bring former NYCOTB patrons to its new Belmont betting parlor, and higher tote fees from larger on-track handles.

NYRA reported a $15.9 million loss in 2010.

NYRA said its net revenues are projected to decrease from $152 million in 2010 to $146 million in 2011. It projects $22 million this year in VLT revenue sharing from the casino expected to open later this year at Aqueduct. On an annualized basis, it said it expects $77 million in proceeds from the casino -- with $300 per day in wins per the projected 4,500 machines; $32 million of that is projected to go to purses.

Total revenues from all New York State OTB corporations to NYRA is expected to fall from $68 million in 2010 to $29 million in 2011; $37 million of that loss is from the NYCOTB closure.

The documents show NYRA in 2010 entered into a five-year, $7.9 million deal with NBC Universal for the broadcast rights to the Belmont Stakes; the deal also includes NYRA’s rights to sell six, 30-second spots during the broadcast.

On the capital side, NYRA plans to obtain a new video tote board 50 feet longer than the one rented at Saratoga last year, as well as $1.5 million for a new production trailer and equipment. It said the goal is for “NYRA-TV to produce and transmit the simulcast product of our living racing.” Potential clients are ESPN3 and TVG, the budget said.

The $11.4 million capital budget for 2011 includes $250,000 over the next several years for the expansion of the Pierre Bellocq mural in the Belmont Park Clubhouse, widening the East Avenue turf track at Saratoga to permit more running lanes and a new warning light system at all its facilities to signal track closures. NYRA also is planning a multi-year project, including creation of a one-acre wetland, damns and retaining walls, to help with runoff issues with Yaddo, its next-door neighbor at Saratoga.