NYRA faces overhaul under Cuomo

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ALBANY -- After a nearly 60-year run of controlling the state's thoroughbred racing that featured historic champions and classic races -- as well as countless scandals and bankruptcy -- the New York Racing Association is at a crossroad.

NYRA will soon be reconstituted under the temporary control of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a move that will likely remake the future of racing and gambling in New York.

A bill that passed earlier this year and is expected to be signed soon by Cuomo gives the governor majority control of the NYRA board for three years to reorganize the private entity. State officials say one of the first issues will be whether to hire a for-profit corporation to run racing at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga.

A company could be hired to handle some or all facets of racing, from track operations to marketing. Long-term contracts could cement a new business model even after NYRA regains control of the board in three years.

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NYRA, a not-for-profit, has had the thoroughbred racing franchise at the three tracks since 1955. It has rejected past attempts to hire for-profits to run some of its operations.

But mismanagement, high compensation of top officers, bankruptcy and a recent issue about withholding winnings from bettors all dogged NYRA.

The survival of the organization has long confounded politicians, regulators and its competitors in the gambling industry.

"This could be the end of NYRA," said Karl Sleight, a racing law expert and blogger. NYRA declined to comment on its immediate future and the governor's takeover.

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