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Key senator: Cuomo proposal allows gov control of NYRA

Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope), chairman of the

Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope), chairman of the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee. Credit: New York State Senate

ALBANY

A key senator said Wednesday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to re-privatize the New York Racing Association gives the governor a way of maintaining control over the entity that runs horse racing at Aqueduct Racetrack and Belmont Park.

And that’s not a good thing, said Sen. John Bonacic, chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

Under Cuomo’s plan, unveiled a day earlier as part of his proposed state budget, NYRA’s board no longer would contain a majority of government appointees, which is what the industry wanted, Bonacic said. However, the plan also calls for continued use of a NYRA oversight board – to which Cuomo names three of the five appointees. Further, the oversight board would have the power to “impound” NYRA revenues under certain conditions.

“I have a problem with that because he would still control NYRA through the oversight board,” said Bonacic (R-Mount Hope).

The senator said he had “no problem” with the existence of an oversight board in case “NYRA goes off the tracks.” But he said he didn’t want the governor holding a majority of appointees.

“This is something that has got to be negotiated,” Bonacic said.

NYRA has been under a state-controlled reorganization board for four years. During that time, it has gone from the financial red to black, posting profits in 2015 and 2014 after 13 consecutive money-losing seasons, according to reports. It oft-troubled racing association was supposed to return to private hands in 2015, but Cuomo has balked.

Last year, frustrated lawmakers approved a bill that would end state control, but the governor vetoed it.

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