State hearings on the New York racing franchise have revealed that three companies bidding to operate the three racetracks have criticised Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan to extend the New York Racing Association’s franchise for thirty years and accept bids for another operator to run video lottery terminals in Aqueduct. The NYRA franchise expires on 31 December and the deal calls for around US$250 million in state aid to make NYRA financially sound. The private bidders want racing and gaming machines to be run by one entity.
Magna Entertainment Corp (MEC), until yesterday a member of Empire Racing Associates formed to bid for the franchise, has withdrawn. Churchill Downs Inc has also withdrawn its membership. MEC stated that it had joined the coalition because it believes that thoroughbred racing in New York is an integral part of an important industry both in New York and throughout the country.
“With the other members of Empire Racing, MEC developed what it thought was a highly competitive franchise bid offering the right balance of horse racing renewal, economic development and financial participation by the State. Unfortunately, Empire Racing's bid has been rebuffed at two important stages in the process and the process has progressed in a manner which MEC does not see leading to a successful outcome for Empire Racing.”
Churchill Downs President and Chief Executive Bob Evans said, “Since that time, the makeup of Empire Racing has changed significantly, and the bidding and selection process is now undefined. We continue to believe that thoroughbred racing's success in the United States requires that New York racing be economically viable. Remaining part of Empire Racing is not serving that goal, so we've ended our participation in Empire Racing."
Another franchise contender, Excelsior Racing Associates has also lost one of its members. Gambling developer Richard Fields left to ‘devote his time and energy’ to Suffolk Downs racetrack in Massachusetts. The state legislators could reject the Spitzer plan when it reconvenes on 22 October. Under the plan NYRA would retain the racing franchise for Belmont Park, Saratoga and Aqueduct, but would give up its claim to ownership of the tracks, where the land is valued at over US$1 billion. (E-10.11.07)
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