The long-anticipated reprivatization of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) took a major step towards coming to fruition Friday evening when New York State legislators came to an agreement on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal for FY 2018. The proposal included provisions to return NYRA to private control–New York state has had majority control of NYRA’s board seats since 2012.
“We thank the governor and legislature for their support in returning the New York Racing Association to private control,” NYRA President and CEO Chris Kay said in a statement. “NYRA is the cornerstone of an industry responsible for more than 17,000 jobs and $2 billion in annual economic impact across our state. As a private entity, we look forward to continue to grow interest in our racing, expand our fan base, and promote New York’s important tourism and agriculture sectors.”
The NYRA reprivitization calls for the formation of a new 17-member board: eight seats will be appointed by the current NYRA executive board, with an additional seat for its chief executive. The New York Governor, Senate and Assembly will each be granted the power to appoint two members, while the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) and New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. (NYTB) will each have control of one seat.
“The budget bill includes provisions that will have a positive and lasting effect on New York’s Thoroughbred industry,” offered NYTHA President Rick Violette, Jr. “We applaud the Governor for his support on these issues, and we appreciate the hard work of our legislators, especially Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senators John Bonacic and Kathleen Marchione, and Assemblymembers J. Gary Pretlow and Carrie Woerner. New York racing is second to none, and reprivatization will allow NYRA to move forward and optimize what is an invaluable asset to our state. The flexibility provided to the Jockey Injury Compensation Fund will open the door to lower costs, making New York a more attractive place to do business and creating an atmosphere of growth for the thousands of Thoroughbred owners and trainers and the tens of thousands of workers they employ. As the state’s second largest agribusiness, horses are responsible for $4.2 billion in economic impact, 1.3 million acres of green space and 33,000 full-time jobs. We thank the Governor and our representatives for the confidence and commitment they have shown in embracing initiatives so important to our industry.”
NYTB Executive Director Jeff Cannizzo issued similar sentiments: “New York’s $4-billion equine industry is critical to the state’s fiscal health and those 33,000 direct jobs it supports. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s ongoing commitment to preserving this diverse agricultural industry that touches every county of New York State, the most prestigious racing in the United States will continue for decades at NYRA.”
The budget proposal must still pass the New York State Senate. The NYRA provisions also call for increased oversight by the Franchise Oversight Board–including the potential for “independent financial review of NYRA finances, a corrective action plan, and [authorization] to encumber racing support payments.” NYRA will be authorized to conduct night racing and to consider reducing race dates for the Aqueduct winter meet.