NYRA to Support VLT Legislation; Schwartz Rips Stronach

At a press conference at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday, New York Racing Association chairman Barry Schwartz announced that the board of trustees of the NYRA agreed to support the introduction of video lottery terminals at Aqueduct and Belmont Park under conditions that would further the racing industry in New York State.

Saratoga Race Course was specifically not included as a venue.

"We want to see what the legislative climate is like," Schwartz said. "A year ago, even six months ago, I didn't think it'd have a chance (of passing). It's time to take a stand. If it's to happen in New York, we want to be a part of it. I don't see us getting very aggressive right away."

Schwartz noted that in a "perfect world, we would not be in favor it it, but we're surrounded by it (VLTs). Our purses used to be miles ahead of everybody else, but we're not anymore."

NYRA president and COO Terry Meyocks noted the number of shippers are way down at the Saratoga meeting.

Schwartz said that both Aqueduct and Belmont Park could be open year-round for VLTs.

"I half-jokingly told the governor (Gov. George Pataki) that if we were to legalize slots in New York State, that Aqueduct would be a premier place."

Also at the press conference, Schwartz took time to rip Frank Stronach. Last week, Stronach's Magna Entertainment was named the winning bidder for the New York City Off-Track Betting franchise and a front-page story in Thursday's Daily Racing Form quoted Stronach as saying he wanted to take over NYRA. Stronach made the remarks during a racing law conference in Saratoga Springs.

"We've been hearing this hollow rhetoric from Frank Stronach for years," Schwartz said. "I haven't seen one racetrack he's improved." If Stronach were to take over NYRA, Schwartz said, "it would be a complete and colossal disaster. The Historical Society would love him," he joked.

In other board news, Schwartz said there is the possibility that NYRA would extend the clubhouse at Saratoga, adding more box seating and a restaurant beyond the clubhouse turn. "Yes, there's been discussions," Schwartz said, "but there is nothing imminent. It would need a lot of approvals from various agencies including the Saratoga Historical Society.

"It's a long way off," he continued. "We're just starting to look at it."

Meyocks noted the expansion is part of NYRA's five-year capital improvement plan.

Meyocks also announced that NYRA will apply for 36 dates for the 2002 meet at Saratoga, with the meet running from July 24 through Sept. 2.