The state sent the New York Racing Association $105 million on Friday and is now the undisputed owner of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course (more than 900 acres of real estate that includes), which the government will lease back to the operator of the racing franchise for $1 a year.
And so, a sometimes acrimonious, drawn-out process that has overshadowed the sport here for more than five years, a succession of progressively lower points, comes to an end. NYRA now calls itself “new NYRA.” The newly reincorporated, not-for-profit organization will settle a $75-million mountain of debt including $24 million (to the relief of many retired employees) owed to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., pay delinquent real estate taxes that will in the future by paid by the state and begin the important process of reconstituting an organization that has for too long run on fumes.
For whatever reason, the state has yet to select an operator for the video lottery terminal operation at Aqueduct, a process that began last winter, before the Eliot Spitzer black-socks scandal put David Paterson in the governor’s office and remains several weeks (if not months) away, but once that facility is actually operational purses at the three New York tracks will be about 30 percent higher than current levels – something horse owners and breeders have been awaiting since 2000, when enabling legislation was approved.
No longer bankrupt, NYRA must immediately undertake the process of building a viable organization, which it has not been in a very long time. –PM