At Wednesday’s meeting of the NYRA Reorganization Board, chair Michael Del Guidice began by expressing his desire to bring the organization that has been under state control for the last several years back to a private non-profit in 2017.
“The legislation, as you know, to refer to private was postponed so we’ll take that up after Labor Day with the governor’s office and the legislative leaders, and hopefully, in January either in the budget or separately in a bill, we look forward to coming up with an agreement with all three parties and us in terms of privatization,” said Del Guidice. “That obviously is the number one item on the agenda for next year.”
Drivers on the Adirondack Northway have no doubt noticed the billboard that reads “Woah, Cuomo!” posted by the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing group. It backs the reprivatization plan offered by the NYRA board and overwhelmingly approved by state lawmakers in June.
The groups could not come to a final agreement with the governor’s office. The deadline for re-privatization has been pushed back two years.
Saratoga Springs-based NYRA board member Georgie Nugent agrees with Del Guidice.
“I truly believe it’s long overdue and the organization has proved and over and over again through their actions in what we have done with getting it to a point where we deserve re-privatization. It’s the right thing to do for horse racing,” said Nugent.
Also at the board meeting, NYRA President and CEO Chris Kay reflected on the first half of this year’s Saratoga meet.
“The results of the first 16 days are encouraging, particularly when you look at the handle of other racetracks this summer. And it probably goes without saying that we did not prepare the 2016 budget that we would meet, let alone exceed, the record handle of 2015,” said Kay.
So far this season, attendance is up 1.2 percent over last year’s record-breaking season. All-source handle is up 1.5 percent.
NYRA attributes the increase in handle to the growing popularity in remote betting. The organization recently launched its NYRA Bets program, which allows users to place bets from their mobile devices while sitting in the grandstand or their living rooms.
Tony Allevato is president of NYRA Bets.
“There was a stat that almost 50 percent of people that are watching television are watching with a second device in their hand — either a tablet, their laptop, or their phone — that they’re checking emails, they’re on the internet while they’re watching television,” said Allevato. “And what’s great about NYRA Bets is people can open an account and they can play from home while they’re watching the races. So we make that connection between online and live television and give people a chance to play.”
While the racing season has proved strong so far, as with any outdoor sport, officials are keeping their fingers crossed for great weather.