Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced his legislation to replace the current law governing the New York Racing Association on Wednesday. The bill not only increases his control over New York racing, but reduces revenues from Video Lottery Terminals that are now guaranteed to NYRA.
Here’s a comparison of the current law with Cuomo’s bill:
- 17-member Board of Directors;
- Cuomo appoints eight;
- Legislative leaders each appoint two;
- Five appointed by the prior NYRA Board;
- Cuomo nominates chair of the Board to be approved by full Board.
- 15-member Board
- Cuomo directly appoints four;
- Legislative leaders each appoint one;
- Eight appointed by current NYRA Executive Committee comprised almost entirely of Cuomo appointees;
- NYRA CEO serves on Board;
- Cuomo nominates Chair of the Board “who shall serve at the pleasure of the governor.”
Let’s go over this. Under the current law, 12 of 17 appointees are made by state officials, and five are truly “private appointees.” The Governor selects 8 of the 17. In a bill laughingly described as a return to private control, all of the Board is selected either directly by state officials or indirectly in a process controlled by the Governor. Cuomo goes from picking 8 of 17 to effectively picking 13 of 15. That’s privatization?
A bill that is identical in the Senate and the Assembly is not much better, because it leaves the so-called “private members” to be selected by the Governor’s appointees. Unfortunately, the media and outside groups persist in calling this a return to private control when the reality is that a Board picked under the legislative bills is likely to end up with a Board of Cuomo appointees.
To add insult to injury, Cuomo is also proposing to take VLT revenues currently dedicated to NYRA’s operating expenses and capital expenditures and capping the payments at $46 million. Since NYRA’s budget for 2016 projected revenue of $57.5 million from this source, we are talking a significant reduction in NYRA’s ability to function. I know there are those who say NYRA should not need this revenue, but it was part of the consideration for NTRA’s transferring title to the property on which the tracks sit to the state. You know – just like a contract.
The sad part of this is that the groundwork for another coup by Cuomo was laid by a supine NYRA Board of Directors and an all-too complicit media. They believed the nonsense that NYRA was profitable without the VLT revenues. Now they are going along with a charade that this is a return to private control when the reality is that the Governor will have greater control.
John Hendrickson, a special advisor appointed by Cuomo to the NYRA Board, resigned when he saw the fix was in. Let’s hope that leaders in the New York racing community and the media step up and follow his example, and start speaking the truth about this latest Cuomo outrage affecting racing.