No word yet on who will run the big tracks

Billie Owens

The deadline was pushed to Jan. 23 to decide which organization will be awarded New York’s lucrative thoroughbred racing franchise at the state’s three biggest tracks.  Among the bidders is the parent company of the Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, Buffalo-based Del-aware North Companies.

The contract held by the New York Racing Association expired Monday. Under a special agreement with lawmakers, racing can continue in the interim at the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga tracks NYRA operates. Only Aqueduct has winter racing.

According to the governor’s announcement, after Jan. 23 “it is expected that NYRA will continue to run racing under a new, permanent contract.”

NYRA is a private, nonprofit organization that has filed for bankruptcy. Under the terms of the proposed contract with NYRA, the state would pay at least $75 million to salvage it — plus forgive its debts. In addition, the association would give up claims of ownership of the tracks, which the state contends it owns.

NYRA has held the contract since 1955. If it is awarded the franchise again, it would expire in 20 years.

Christopher Whitcomb, a spokesman for Delaware North Companies, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Other companies competing for the contract are Saratoga-based Empire Racing Associates, Excelsior Racing Associates in New York City and Australia’s Capital Play. All the contenders promise to pump millions of dollars into revamping Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga and reap bigger profits for the state. NYRA claims the nonprofit structure of the state franchise is a disadvantage when comparing its performance with for-profit companies.

Contact Billie Owens at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 320, or at