Push Continues From Thoroughbred Industry to Privatize NYRA

ALBANY, N.Y. -- As the New York Racing Association remains under state control, there's a push underway from the thoroughbred industry to privatize the entity that oversees racing in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he's supportive of the move, but on Wednesday would not give a timeline. 

"It's operating, it's operating well. My hope and the expectation was to privatize it once the state got it on solid footing," said Cuomo, D-New York. 

The push to re-privatize NYRA is strongest in Saratoga Springs, where business and community leaders have led a concerted public campaign on the issue. Cuomo, however, says the state will continue oversight of NYRA even after it is no longer under direct public control.

"The state should continue to regulate it because we have a significant investment in NYRA. We subsidize by about $50 million a year so, the state has to perform its role, but the best way to do it ultimately is to privatize it with continued state regulation," Cuomo said.

The governor's administration moved in 2012 to take over NYRA operations after then-CEO Charlie Hayward was removed and the association was caught improperly collecting millions in fees from exotic bets. 

"The horse racing tracks were basically bankrupt. The state came in and effectively took it over," said Cuomo.

NYRA was initially meant to return to private control in 2014, but state authority has been renewed. Legislative leaders like Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie largely agree with the governor's stance. 

"We want it to be profitable. We want it to be privately run. We just want to make sure the numbers work so we don't run into the same numbers previously," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx. 

Heastie says he's deferring to the lawmakers who represent race tracks in New York.

"We just want to make sure the numbers work out," Heastie said.

NYRA operates three thoroughbred race tracks in Saratoga Springs, along with Belmont and Aqueduct in Queens.

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