NYRA Sets Voucher Promo; Awaits Word on Fine Appeal

A few months after it was slapped with a $10,000 fine over its last promotional mailer, the New York Racing Association is trying again.

NYRA has applied to state regulators for a one-day "mystery voucher" promotion Nov. 28. The program, in which NYRA mails thousands of vouchers out to customers, features vouchers that are redeemable for $2 or more at the track; a grand prize in the past has included a $1-million voucher.

Stacy Clifford, a New York State Racing and Wagering Board spokeswoman, said NYRA's new application was received the week of Oct. 6.

The board this summer ordered NYRA to come up with a series of new safeguards for the voucher program. Earlier, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, in just one of many of his criticisms of NYRA, had said the voucher program was abused by mutuel tellers as a way to cheat customers and pocket money from the vouchers.

It is unknown what new safeguards NYRA has proposed for its new voucher program.

After mailing out 180,000 vouchers, NYRA had to cancel a mystery voucher promotion planned for Saratoga in connection with the Whitney Handicap when the racing and wagering board made new demands for tighter security. The board then fined NYRA $10,000 for proceeding with the program--by mailing out the vouchers--before it obtained state approval. At the time, NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz called the new demands "harassment" by regulators.

Officials said tighter security for the voucher program had been discussed for more than a year. Among 12 points such marketing programs must meet are new safeguards in how the vouchers are distributed, including a ban on the placement of date or time stamps on the vouchers.

In his investigation, Spitzer said such information was used by tellers to cheat customers out of their prize money. The rules also ban racetrack employees from participating in the promotion and demand new recordkeeping of vouchers that are mailed out and then returned to the tracks.

NYRA has appealed the $10,000 fine--$5,000 each for two separate mailings for the scuttled promotion. Clifford said a hearing on the appeal is scheduled for Oct. 8.