NYRA going back into private hands

April 09, 2017 06:41 PM

ALBANY – While fans were betting on horse races at the Saratoga Race Course, there was another bet going on at the State Capitol -- whether the New York Racing Association would go back into private hands.

Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said over the phone that NYRA found out this week all their efforts finally paid off when lawmakers agreed on the final deal that will return NYRA to a private organization.

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“Clearly, this is a win for Saratoga. This is a win for the state's thoroughbred horse racing industry,” Shimkus said. “This is something we've been working on for well over two years.”

State government took over NYRA in 2012. At the time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pointed to scandals involving drugs, bets and increases in horse fatalities. Shimkus says things have been different over the past few years.

"They've been profitable,” he said. “The governor and his team, Chris Kay and his team, have done a great job of setting us up to really grow interest in this sport.”

Under the plan to re-privatize NYRA into a not-for-profit, the state calls for a 17 member board. The governor gets two appointments as well as the state legislature. NYRA President Chris Kay will also be part of the board.

"We've got to get the right people on the board,” Shimkus said. “It's got to be a partnership between the public and the private sector.”

Shimkus says this will give NYRA the flexibility to be more innovative and look at things with a long-term view and create the best horse racing in Saratoga.

“We can take a look at what kind of capital improvements have to get done and get them started,” he said. “We can talk about how do we grow the fan base, how do we get even more people to come to what is the best race meet in all of the world.”


WNYT Staff

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