NYRA Shelves Plan to Lower Takeout at Spa Meet

The New York Racing Association, facing legal and political battles on a growing number of fronts, will not be getting its request to lower takeout on bets for the upcoming Saratoga meet.

The state Racing and Wagering Board informally decided July 1 not to allow NYRA to lower its takeout this week, a request NYRA officials believed would be automatic.

"The board deferred action to allow the parties to make additional submission of documents,'' said board spokeswoman Stacy Clifford.

The deferral means that even if the board were to embrace NYRA's takeout proposal anytime soon the lower rates could not kick in until after Oct. 1 -- a month after Saratoga goes dark. The takeout can only be changed once a quarter under a new law designed to loosen up some of the longtime restrictions involving takeout levels at tracks and off-track betting corporations; Clifford said approved takeout changes don't take effect until the next quarter.

NYRA wanted to lower the takeout on win, place, and show bets from 14% to 13%. The takeout on multiple bets, such as daily doubles, would go from 17.5% to 17%. It believes the lower takeouts will entice more betting and bring more revenue to both the track and OTB parlors.

But OTB officials fought the change, and were able to get political mileage for their position by using the damaging report of NYRA's operations released last month by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. OTBs argued that they would be forced to lower their takeout levels, thereby reducing, they insisted, revenues they share with local governments. The deferral by the racing board illustrates how deeply NYRA's standing at the state Capitol has fallen in just the past few weeks since the Spitzer report, which outlined criminal acts and unresponsive management at NYRA.

NYRA officials insisted the change would boost revenues, and claimed OTBs would get reductions in what they pay NYRA when NYRA reduces its takeout.

NYRA Chairman Barry Schwartz did not return calls for comment, but last week said his takeout request was "a no-brainer.''