Sources: NYRA in Control of Racing
Photo: File Photo
The New York Racing Association will continue to run racing in the state.

The New York Racing Association, in control of Thoroughbred racing in the state since 1955, will continue to run racing under a deal that came together Feb. 12 at the state Capitol in Albany, government and industry sources say.

The deal calls for NYRA to end its ownership land claims for Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga racetracks and, in return, get another exclusive franchise to continue running racing. A contentious issue over the governance of NYRA and who controls appointments to the NYRA board has been worked out, sources say.

State officials either were unavailable or declined immediate comment.

NYRA chairman Steven Duncker declined comment when asked about the deal as he emerged from a closed-door meeting at the Capitol with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and as he and other top NYRA officials, including president Charles Hayward, headed down the hall to a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

After his meeting with Bruno, a smiling Duncker said the details of what negotiators have been working on will be presented possibly today to other NYRA board members.

Bruno earlier had told reporters that he believed the deal was done.

An announcement on the actual deal could come Feb. 13, sources say.

A source close to the talks said NYRA officials were still reviewing the terms of the final deal, but that its executives believe they can live with the terms of the tentative deal.

The final agreement, which sources say is still coming together, calls for a state bailout of $105 million to help NYRA emerge from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.

The legislation will also include an increase in video lottery terminal revenue sharing percentages to other tracks in the state.

While the sides were stuck only 24 hours earlier on a number of contentious issues, movement occurred the morning of Feb. 11 and legislation is expected to be printed later in the day.

A major sticking point was the composition of the NYRA board, which now totals 28 members. The sides last week tentatively agreed to create a 21-member board, which would include 11 members appointed by NYRA and 10 appointed by the government. Bruno had been insisting on a reconstituted board as a way to keep a better watch on NYRAs operations. But NYRA balked at having only one additional appointment to the board over the states members.

Negotiators say the deal now calls for NYRA to appoint 14 members and the government to name 11 members. Negotiators cautioned that the final bill is still being reviewed and some terms still could be changed this afternoon.

Sources said the deal also includes some members of the NYRA board who are appointed by the state and will serve on the boards powerful executive committee.

The agreement will also call for NYRA to live up to certain benchmarks on everything from attendance to backstretch conditions.

The apparent breakthrough came one day after Duncker lashed out at state officials for going backwards in negotiations. He threatened that Aqueduct would go dark Feb.13  the day a current extender expires that has kept NYRA running racing since its franchise expired Dec. 31.

There are still some outstanding questions yet to be resolved, not the least of which include who is going to operate a future casino at Aqueduct. Those issues will be worked out in the weeks and months ahead, legislators and Gov. Eliot Spitzer have agreed.

The apparent retention of the franchise comes after several years of legal and financial problems, which have included deferred indictments by federal prosecutors and living for more than a year under the cloud of a Chapter 11 filing.

Barring any last-minute problems, state officials expect the deal to be approved by the Legislature Wednesday before the 212-member Senate and Assembly starts an 11-day recess.

The deal also includes some financial oversight authority over NYRA by the state comptroller and ways that NYRA can borrow money for capital improvements. Sources had conflicting information Tuesday evening precisely how a thorny simulcasting issue will be resolved. NYRA was fighting an attempt to loosen controls over the simulcasting of its racing signal to in-state off track betting corporations. One source said the matter was pushed off to be resolved down the road while another said the issue was still a topic of discussion into the evening.

While Bruno talked of a deal, Democrats were more cautious. Spitzer said in a radio interview that the sides are "extraordinarily close."

"We're closer today than we were yesterday," was all Silver would say of the talks.

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