Four Groups Submit Bids for New York Franchise

The four groups vying to run New York's Thoroughbred racing franchise have submitted their bids to Gov. Eliot Spitzer's office.

Three groups looking to succeed the New York Racing Association delivered their proposals April 2. NYRA submitted its proposal March 30, Spitzer spokesman Paul Larrabee said.

Larrabee wouldn’t divulge details of the bids but said they would be made public later in the week. The bidders will present their proposals in public hearings April 10-11.

However, one of the bidders, Capital Play, said in a statement it submitted three possible proposals valued at $730 million to $1.8 billion to run Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga.

The franchise held by NYRA, which has been beset by mismanagement, state and federal investigations, and sagging fortunes, expires Dec. 31. The next franchise holder could run racing for up to 20 years.

Capital Play, an Australian consortium now based in New York City, said its top proposal guarantees an investment of $1.8 billion in New York's tracks, including annual lease payments of $50 million over 20 years. It would make $500 million in track investments, spend $200 million on video lottery terminal facilities, and pay off $110 million of NYRA's pension costs.

Capital Play values its second proposal at $1.5 billion, with a $250-million up-front lease payment and annual lease payments of $22 million for 20 years. The bid also includes the same investments in track improvements, VLTs, and NYRA pensions.

Both of those options assume VLTs will be allowed at Aqueduct and Belmont.

Capital Play said it would invest $730 million if VLTs are only allowed at Aqueduct. That proposal includes a $100-million up-front lease payment, annual lease payments of $10 million, $220 million in track investments, $100 million for VLT facilities, and $110 million to pay off NYRA pensions.

The field of bidders also includes Empire Racing Associates, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based group; and Excelsior Racing Associates, a group headed by casino developer Richard Fields.

NYRA president Charles Hayward declined to offer details of his group's bid. Katie Burke, a spokeswoman for Excelsior Racing, and Robert Bellafiore, a spokesman for Empire Racing, also declined to offer details of their bids.

Excelsior Racing was chosen by a Pataki administration panel last year, but Spitzer and lawmakers are making a full review before awarding a new franchise. In a letter last month to bidders, Spitzer's special counsel, Richard Rifkin, said the governor expects to make a choice around May 25.

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