The New York Racing Association has been granted another temporary extension to continue operating during most of the Saratoga meet while it negotiates a final deal with the state for a 25-year franchise.
NYRA since the beginning of the year has been operating under a series of rolling extensions granted by a state government oversight panel, though most insiders had expected the issues keeping it in its temporary-operator state to have been long resolved. The new extension, granted July 11, will keep NYRA in charge of racing until Aug. 28. Its previous extension was set to expire July 12.
Steve Newman, chairman of the oversight panel, said he expects the outstanding issues between NYRA and the state to be resolved in the next several weeks, though he left open the possibility of having to grant another extension before the end of August.
The state legislature earlier this year approved a 25-year franchise extension for NYRA, which includes a cash bailout of $105 million and an end by NYRA to its ownership claims of the three tracks. But for months, NYRA and state officials have been negotiating the many details of a final agreement, which involves a lease and settlement papers.
Complicating all of this is that NYRA is in Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection. It needs the final set of agreements with the state in order to emerge from bankruptcy.
Another sticking point is which of three bidders will be operating the future Aqueduct video lottery terminal casino, which was first approved by the state in 2001. NYRA has told state officials the selection of the operator should be made before the final franchise agreement is taken to a bankruptcy judge. There is, however, no legal requirement that the operator be selected first, officials said.
“We’re getting closer each time," said James Millerman, a lawyer with the Paul, Weiss firm that has been retained by the state to negotiate with NYRA.
Newman said officials with Gov. David Paterson’s administration told him a decision on a VLT casino operator could be made within the next week. Still, he acknowledged there another extension could be needed to permit NYRA to complete the upcoming Saratoga meet.
The three groups vying for the casino contract are Delaware North; Capital Play, which on July 10 saw the departure of Karl O’Farrell as its president and its partner Mohegan Sun; and SL Green and its gambling partner Hard Rock.