If you’ve been to Saratoga Race Course, Aqueduct Racetrack, or Belmont Park over the years, then you’ve probably seen the logo for the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) somewhere. NYRA is the corporation that operates all three of those thoroughbred horse racing courses, and since 2012, it has been under state control. Although there are plans to re-privatize NYRA, the process hasn’t been smooth.
Privatization is the act of transferring ownership of a business, service, or industry from public/government control to private control. NYRA was originally under private control, but due to controversy and a decline in revenues and attendance, New York State took control of the corporation in 2012.
According to the Saratoga Business Journal, after a few years of being under state control, NYRA has been able to recover from its $25 million debt and work toward improving its facilities and customer amenities. However, recently, there has been a push by members of the thoroughbred racing industry and others to re-privatize NYRA.
Some of the benefits of NYRA becoming a privately held company again include keeping its meetings behind closed doors and having a board filled with members of the industry who can further the success of the horse racing courses.
Last year, a bill to re-privatize NYRA passed through the state houses and the legislature. This bill would’ve brought NYRA under private control and introduced a new 15-member NYRA board. Only two members would’ve been appointed by the governor, while the others would’ve been appointed by industry leaders, such as the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and others.
On February 1, 2017, by choosing not to sign or officially veto the bill, Gov. Cuomo effectively pocket vetoed it. However, while the 2016 bill may be dead, New York State and the governor have their own plans to re-privatize NYRA in the future.
In his FY 2018 Executive Budget Briefing Book, one of the gaming initiatives is to re-privatize NYRA. Under this proposal, the 15-member NYRA board would consist of 6 governor appointed individuals, 8 from the private sector, and the CEO.
Furthermore, the proposal would enhance the powers of New York State’s Franchise Oversight Board (FOB). In other words, the FOB would have the power to, in certain circumstances, conduct an independent financial review of NYRA’s finances, form a corrective action plan, and authorize to encumber racing support payments.
Further details will likely come out about Gov. Cuomo’s NYRA re-privatization proposal in the coming months. Are you in favor of the re-privatization of NYRA?