Saratoga Springs citizens accuse governor of breaking racing promise

June 15, 2016 07:30 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - There were several dozen people, many of Saratoga's well-known, chanting "Whoa Cuomo," a horse racing reference, urging Governor Cuomo to give up the reins to the New York Racing Association.

The Governor took control of NYRA four years ago, saying at the time, the state would take over for three years and then return the organization that runs Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont to a private, not-for-profit.

But the people gathered here say the Governor has no plans to keep his promise and instead wants to keep NYRA under state control.

"The Governor never intended to keep his promise and it hurts me to say that because my wife is a very close friend of Matilda Cuomo," said John Hendrickson, husband of Marylou Whitney, and until recently a governor-appointed member of NYRA's advisory board.

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"We will look at every and all avenues we have to make sure we advance the cause of making sure Saratoga Race Course and the thoroughbred racing industry is successful for years to come," said Todd Shimkus, a leader of Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing and president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

One after another, a dozen people stepped to the mic to urge the Governor to sign legislation passed Wednesday afternoon by the Senate and Assembly to re-privatize NYRA, give locals a seat on the board and keep revenue from VLTs flowing toward racing.

VLT money is supposed to be going to NYRA in exchange for its handing over of $1 Billion in land on which the tracks operate.

They say the governor wants millions in VLT money to go in the state's general fund.

"Horse racing is not a hobby. Horse racing is an industry," said former NYRA announcer Tom Durkin as he urged state government to return NYRA to a private not-for-profit board with local representation.

Governor Cuomo's Spokesman Rich Azzopardi says, "The Governor and the Legislature saved NYRA from yet another bankruptcy in 2012 and installed a Board and management team that, by every metric, has been a success. We seek to continue this progress."


Mark Mulholland

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