New York Panel Schedules Public Hearings

The New York state panel involved in the renewal process for a new Thoroughbred racing franchise to replace the New York Racing Association will hold two public hearings later this month to help it carry out its mandate.

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of Racing will hold its first hearing on Jan. 24 in Albany at the Empire State Plaza. The group shifts to Manhattan the following day for a hearing at the New York State Insurance Department offices in lower Manhattan.

"The committee members are very excited about beginning this process that will lead to the selection of the next state racing franchise holder. These hearings will be an important step in that process," said J. Patrick Barrett, the panel's chairman.

The public hearings are expected to attract testimony from industry leaders, academics and, presumably, executives with some of the potential groups interested in vying for the NYRA franchise.

The franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga racetracks expires at the end of 2007. There is a push among some state officials to pick a new franchise holder at some point during the next six months; that will be an uphill challenge given that 2006 is an election year for all 212 state legislators and for statewide officeholders.

Some industry officials have speculated that Democrats may be interested in trying to slow down the process until after Republican Gov. George Pataki finishes up his third and final term in office at the end of this year.