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Sep 14, 2007

Spitzer favors NYRA to keep tracks

Albany, NY (Sports Network) - Tuesday afternoon New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announced that he is backing the effort of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to retain operation of Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct. The NYRA has operated the tracks since 1955.

The other groups that vied for the contract were Capital Play, Empire Racing and Excelsior Racing Associates. The contract to operate the three tracks is set to expire the end of this year.

"Thoroughbred racing is a vital state industry, providing tens of thousands of jobs to breeders, horsemen and workers who are directly employed at New York's three thoroughbred tracks," said Governor Spitzer. "Following my investigations a few years ago, a new leadership team at NYRA has turned the organization around to the point where it is demonstrating real results and true transparency. The strong performance of racing this season is a testament to how far NYRA has come in the last few years and this agreement ensures that racing in New York State will be operated by experienced management."

The governor also announced his recommendation that a separate franchise be awarded to an experienced gaming operator to operate as many as 4,500 video lottery terminals (VLT) at Aqueduct. The recommendation of a VLT operator will be made within approximately 60 days.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding released Tuesday, a "New NYRA" will be created by the existing organization to operate the new thoroughbred racing franchise. The New NYRA will be awarded, effective January 1, 2008, a 30 year franchise for the three tracks.

"After careful consideration, I concluded that a reconstituted NYRA is the best entity to operate thoroughbred racing in New York State," continued Governor Spitzer. "The state, in consultation with NYRA, will choose an experienced gaming operator to operate the VLT franchise at Aqueduct. This will ensure that we have the best possible operator for both the racing and the gaming franchise."

The Memorandum of Understanding was approved Tuesday morning by the NYRA board. The board itself will be reduced in size from 28 to 19.

The New York State legislature must still approve Governor Spitzer's recommendations with respect to these franchises.

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