Bill Would Clear Way for NYRA Bankruptcy

Minor legislation clarifies many issues regarding NYRA bankruptcy.

A deal has been struck in New York that could smooth the way for the New York Racing Association to emerge from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The bill is fairly minor in nature, enacting a series of mostly technical amendments to a law approved earlier this year giving NYRA a 25-year extension to run Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. But NYRA officials have said they could not resolve its bankruptcy proceeding without it.

The legislation, expected to get final approval June 25 at the state Capitol, clarifies the computation of NYRA’s franchise fee payments, more clearly outlines the state’s ownership of the three racetracks, and provides $11 million from the state to pay off NYRA’s local property tax levies. It also authorizes the state comptroller to perform audits of NYRA and lays out the responsibilities for a new state board that will oversee NYRA’s finances.

The legislation was agreed to after Senate Republicans dropped provisions to raise breed development payments and to create a community advisory board from communities around Belmont and to provide towns near the track with revenue-sharing funds.

The bill comes as NYRA’s scheduled June 30 hearing before a federal bankruptcy judge in Manhattan is being pushed off into July. NYRA and aides to Gov. David Paterson are still putting the final touches on an agreement to present to the judge.

Also approved June 25 is a measure to create an equine steroids testing program at Cornell University’s veterinary lab. The lab would be paid for by funds from horsemen’s accounts. Another racing bill approved will raise fines for violating an array of racing regulations by individuals and tracks from $5,000 per incident to $20,000.