Friday, June 25, 2010

Straight Talk from Charlie

New York Racing Assocation President and CEO Charles Hayward spent 90 minutes on the Friday Night NYRA Live Web Chat answering questions from the web chat participants. For the most part the answers to the questions were detailed and straightforward.

Of course one question posted was based on the misconception that NY State gave $25 million to NYRA as a bailout so it could continue operations. It must be frustrating for Hayward to deal with this all the time. Charlie shot back with this answer:

"First of all, the state loaned NYRA money under the terms of our franchise agreement. That obligation of the state will be assumed by the VLT operator at Aqueduct when a VLT operator is selected and repays the state $25 million. I am extremely optimistic about the current state VLT operator procurement process. New York State Lottery is running the selection of the Aqueduct VLT operator under strict NYS procurement rules. This has not been the case in the past."

Charlie also was asked to address the possibility of reducing the racing days at Aqueduct. Charlie gave a detailed answer citing the state requirement under the franchise agreement to run 250 dates a year on NYRA tracks. He also cited the money issue:

"....this year the Aqueduct meet from January through late April, NYRA paid $5 million less in purses than we earned on wagering on Aqueduct. At Saratoga this summer, NYRA will pay $2 million more in purses than will be earned during the meet. What that means is that racing at Aqueduct in the winter subsidizes the purse structure at both Saratoga and Belmont Park."

Lastly Hayward put to rest (thank goodness) the rumor that Saratoga is looking to further expand it's racing season (this year increases from 36 to 40 racing days)

"For innumerable reasons, I think the 40 days has maxed out the Saratoga meet for the foreseeable future."


Steve Zorn said...

Straightforward on the facts, I agree. But one might have liked a little more thought about the big issues facing the industry. E.g., regardless of the state law that mandates 250 racing days a year, and the fact that NYRA now ekes out a small profit on the Aqueduct winter meet, does Charlie think that a less-is-more model for racing might make sense in general?

I was surprised to hear that NYRA expects a loss from the Saratoga meet. I had thought that Aqueduct and Saratoga turned a profit and that the two Belmont meets lost money, primarily because of their rich stakes programs. I guess the thinking about going to 40 days at Saratoga is that they'll lose less than they would running some of those days at Belmont.

Personally, I'm still nostalgic for the 4-week Saratoga meet, summer camp for racetrackers.

SaratogaSpa said...

Steve-Thanks for your insight. I think we all want a less is more approach-but NY State would have to move first on this, and we all know how slow (see VLT fiasco) the state legislature acts.