The board of the newly-constituted New York Racing Association, which the state took over after allegations of mismanagement, met for the first time Wednesday. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
It's been a a troubled history for the New York Racing Association, which is why this first meeting was so significant. It was an opportunity for the NYRA reorganization board, as it is now called, to discuss its upcoming agenda. That will include, among others things, restoring public trust in the industry.
"Will the public believe that money is being well spent, and I hope that we will do a good job managing the resources and also give the public access by putting the financials, the quarterly financials, as we did the last couple of weeks, on the web, and people can make their own decisions," said NYRA Chairman David Skorton.
This year, Governor Andrew Cuomo dissolved the NYRA board and replaced it with the current publicly-appointed body. The idea was bring more transparency.
"For longtime racing people, this is a big deal, because NYRA was always a private, nonprofit corporation," said racing analyst Mike Kane. "It operated as it pleased in secrecy, really. So to have an open board meeting is pretty much a landmark day for people who follow racing, and this is the biggest racing association in America."
NYRA operates three racetracks at Belmont, Saratoga Springs, and Aqueduct in Queens. The interim, publicly-appointed board will only serve for three years before handing it back to private control. NYRA oversees hundreds of millions of dollars generated through the racing industry.
The board includes celebrity chef Bobby Flay. He declined to speak with us on camera, but he laid out a vision for racing during the meeting. He talked about the need for the state's struggling industry to reinvent itself, much the way the city of Las Vegas did in the early '90s.
"That is the $900 billion question, is can racing reinvent itself and become popular like it used to be?" Kane said. "Racing was a huge, huge sport. I think it's in the state's best interest to have racing be healthy."
This summer, Saratoga Springs celebrates 150 years of racing. Industry officials are hoping for a big promotion to attract record crowds, something that could be a boon for the upstate economy.