If the Republicans in the New York State Senate think that anyone will take seriously their proposal issued yesterday for awarding the soon-to-expire racing franchise held for a half century by the New York Racing Association, they are blithely unaware of the buffoonery this suggestion represents.

At what most hoped was a point near the end of the agonizingly long game, the Republican senate majority, led by Joe Bruno who is obviously bent on obstruction in this matter and probably any in which the Democratic governor had taken a position, proposes creation of yet another state agency The Racing, Gaming and Equine Sports Development Corporation which would be dominated by members of the NYRA Oversight Board, a panel appointed by ex-Republican Gov. George Pataki, whose administration was at best benignly negligent and at worst openly obstructionist in its position on racing issues. Whats more, this new bureaucracy would have authority over virtually everything pertaining to the racing industry. Essentially, it would become the franchise operator.

Notice how often the word obstruction appears here in various forms. First, Pataki, who delayed approval of the Aqueduct video lottery casino beyond the end of his administration, now Bruno. Accomplishment and enlightened government on behalf of the constituency, it appears, is beyond either political party in this state.

The Republican proposal would return what has been a ridiculous process to square one and complicate matters beyond the wildest imaginings of the most cynical observers to this process. It is a proposal without merit and had no more chance of legislative approval than the governors proposal to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, the governors proposal, which unlike the cynical joke proffered by the Republicans on Tuesday, disposes of the land-ownership issue not addressed by the Bruno proposal and returns the industry to a point from which it is possible to advance, will eventually be put before the legislature for a vote. It will likely meet approval in the assembly. Exactly the extent to which the Republicans, whose control of the senate in tenuous at best, are prepared to support what amounts to nonsense in a fight that is entirely political is anyones guess. Who would have imagined that they would have conceived something as outlandish as the plan they have suggested and now stand behind.

On another front, it is not exactly shocking that the Shinnecock Nations proposal for a full-blown casino at Aqueduct, complete with every conceivable bell and whistle, has received an icy reception in political circles. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was dismissive. So was Sheldon Silver, the Democratic assembly speaker, who supports the governors proposal to award the racing franchise to NYRA... This leaves five players in the race to operate the long-awaited video lottery facility, none of them named Empire Racing or Excelsior.

Another Native American group, the Seneca Nation, which operates casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and other western New York locales, probably has no chance since there is little possibility that the necessary declaration of Aqueduct as a reservation will be embraced in Albany. Greenwood Racing of Pennsylvania brings controversial foreign ownership to the mix and is unlikely to be considered seriously. Delaware North, once a partner in Empire and operator of casinos at Finger Lakes and Saratoga Raceway, has baggage of its own. Foxwoods Developments, which operates the sprawling casino in Connecticut, is yet another Native American-controlled entity and Mohegan Sun, a partner of Capital Play, the Australian firm still on the fringes.

This is not an impressive roster of candidates what happened to the high-powered Nevada and Atlantic City players? One, however, will ultimately be