Noting that the “reforms and initiatives
that we have collectively implemented
are beginning to generate real,
tangible results”, New York Racing Association
CEO and President Chris Kay
delivered a positive report to the group’s
board of directors in August.
Kay’s remarks capped a meeting complete
with the seating of a new board
member, Marc Holliday, and a series of
committee reports and a financial overview
offered by Chief Financial Officer
Stover reported that the organization’s
financial performance continues on a
positive trajectory, and that a review of
Equibase data for the three months ending
June 30 saw wagering on NYRA races
bucking the national trend, growing by 5
percent while national wagering fell by
Further, the Equibase data cited by
Stover showed that every dollar invested
in purses at NYRA during the three
months ending June 30 yielded $14.82
in handle, compared to $9.96 industrywide.
NYRA contributed 4 percent of total
industry race days, offered 14 percent
of purses, and generated 21 percent of
thoroughbred handle across the U.S.,
according to Stover.
Kay noted that it has been nearly two
years since a confluence of events led
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to direct the
formation of a temporary, publically controlled
body – the NYRA Reorganization
Board – tasked with transforming NYRA
into a model of accountability, efficiency
Kay said in the past year alone, a new
management team was put together.
Through prudent budgeting, demanding
greater efficiencies and securing more
favorable revenue streams, the organization
paid off a $25 million loan from Resorts
World and is now debt-free. Further,
the organization is currently on-track to
achieve its first operating surplus since
2000, he said.
Embracing recommendations in the
2012 New York Task Force, the organization
hired one of the first safety stewards
in the nation, Hugh Gallagher. Gallagher
is a nationally-renowned leader in equine
safety and is working with NYRA’s Horse
Watch Detail to prevent illegal use of
race day medications.
Working in concert with the State
Gaming Commission, racing operations
at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga Race
Course are safer than any point in recent
memory, said Kay.
NYRA set out to enhance the experience
for its guests at its Aqueduct, Belmont
and Saratoga tracks.
At Saratoga, there were nearly $2 million
in capital improvements designed
to provide an enhanced experience.
This included several technological
enhancements, such as hundreds of new
HD televisions, enhanced Wi-Fi capacity,
a new, improved sound system, Trakus
technology for horseplayers and three
new HD video boards across the property.
Additionally, families were able to utilize
an expanded children’s playground and
visit the new “Horse Sense” exhibit. More
than 125 new picnic tables were also
installed throughout the backyard.
Regarding the organization’s preparations
for re-privatization by 2015, including
the development of a three-year
financial plan and potential utilization of
real estate assets, Kay said that progress
is continuing in this area, with further
updates to be provided to the board in
the coming months.
On Sept. 2, in a new release, NYRA
said paid attendance for the 40-day meet
reaching 972,018. Attendance in 2013 was
867,182. But this year NYRA sold more
than 6,000 season passes. Those were
included in the daily figures, regardless
of how many actually attended. But NYRA
also stopped counting people called
“spinners,” who on give-away days buy
multiple admission tickets to get multiple
souvenir items. Those thousands
of admissions were included in NYRA
figures in the past.
NYRA reported the final on-track
handle was $150.4 million, up from $147.5
million in 2013. The all-sources handle,
which includes wagering on Saratoga
both on-track and at simulcast outlets
nationwide, dropped from $586.7 million
in 2013 to $571.2 million in 2014.
He said Saratoga also experienced
strong food and beverage sales, commensurate
with the increase in attendance
The 2014 Saratoga season saw a record
$17.45 million in stakes purses, topped by
two blockbuster racing days: the Grade
1, $1.25 million Travers on August 23
and the Grade 1, $1.5 million Whitney
on August 2.