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Feb 15, 2008

NYRA awarded 25-year franchise


Albany, NY (Sports Network) - The New York State legislature has voted to award the New York Racing Association (NYRA) a new 25-year franchise to continue operating its three racetracks. The vote occurred on Wednesday, hours before NYRA would have ceased operation.

NYRA's franchise to operate Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct expired at the end of 2007, but two extensions were granted to extend operations to Wednesday, February 13.

"This plan really came together in the last two days through the diligent efforts of State government: in particular, speaker Silver and his staff were tireless in their efforts to make this significant piece of legislation a reality. We especially appreciate the tremendous work of the Governor and his staff as well as the Senate Majority leader and his staff," said NYRA chairman C. Steven Duncker. "This legislation contains the key components for us to emerge from bankruptcy and to improve upon what is already the best racing in the world."

Over the previous few weeks negotiations to implement a long-term agreement appeared to have bogged down. NYRA officials had plans to close Aqueduct after racing on Wednesday and lay off most employees.

Last September New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announced that he was backing the effort of the NYRA to retain operation of Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct. The NYRA has operated the tracks since 1955.

"This a great day for thoroughbred racing in New York and for all the people involved with the State's vital thoroughbred industry," said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward. "I especially want to thank and acknowledge all the NYRA employees who worked so hard to put on the best racing in the country, despite the uncertainties and distractions of this process. We all deeply appreciate the efforts of our franchise working group, made up of NYRA trustees and senior management, who worked tirelessly and with tremendous commitment to secure this positive outcome."

NYRA will be able to come out from Chapter 11 bankruptcy with a $105 million bailout from the state. A casino operator will be selected by the state for a casino at Aqueduct and the operator will be required to pay back the $105 million. The casino at Aqueduct will have 4,500 slot machines.

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