Sports Outside the Beltway

New York Racing Association files for bankruptcy

From the New York Times-

ALBANY, Nov. 2 — The New York Racing Association, which operates the state’s three thoroughbred racetracks, filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday, the latest chapter in a troubled recent history.

The racing association has owned the franchise to operate the Aqueduct, Saratoga and Belmont racetracks since 1955, but has been affected by a series of scandals that culminated in the appointment of a federal monitor and the installation of a new management team in 2004. The association’s franchise expires at the end of next year, and two major for-profit bidders with considerable political clout and financial muscle are also vying for the rights.

Of late, the association’s prospects for a comeback have been hampered by a feud with the Pataki administration, which has held up the installation of 4,500 video lottery terminals for Aqueduct that were approved by the Legislature and are seen by the association as a critical source of revenue.

The administration has also been slow to disburse a $30 million loan approved by the Legislature last year. The state and the association have also clashed over who owns the land where the racetracks are located, an issue that will probably be addressed by a bankruptcy court judge.

The dispute with New York state didn’t help the NYRA but it wasn’t the sole cause of the association’s downfall. The signs of horse racing’s decline have been obvious for years. Tracks are closing almost everywhere. Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island is closed, Yonkers is planing to become a casino. That only leaves the Meadowlands in New Jersey as the standardbred track in the NYC area. Thoroughbred racing is faring no better. Even Pimlico Downs, home of the famous Preakness Stakes race, is in dire straits.

With gamblers being given new ways to spend their cash with every passing day, the life of horse racing in this country continues to ebb away. The Sport of Kings may not survive.

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