New York racing news spices up the weekend

Who says New York racing conversations can’t be interesting in freezing mid-December? Who said anything about the racing doldrums?  Maybe we should thank NYC-OTB and our dear elected representatives 200 miles to the north for giving us so much fodder for chatter in this holiday season.

The New York Racing Association has been widely pilloried for announcing raises at a time of perhaps perilous finances, given the loss of revenue from NYC OTB.  “Bad PR,” say many. “Especially those executive salary raises.”

I know that I’ve a reputation as something of a NYRA apologist, which I don’t think is entirely accurate, but I do think that I am more likely than many to offer them benefit of the doubt.  In this case, though…really?  Really, people? We’re going to slam a company for giving raises to people who haven’t had them in three years? A couple of weeks before the holidays? In a region that is among the most expensive in the country to live? My goodness, if you’re going to get criticized for giving working people more money, what on earth can you do that would be greeted with praise?

Yeah, I get that the executive salaries above a certain level perhaps should have been exempt, and yes, I understand that publically expressing concern about revenue and then increasing expenses might not look like the smartest thing to do. From a PR standpoint, right, yeah, sure. Not a good idea.

But sometimes, shouldn’t we put aside concerns about how things look in order to do the right thing? In some cases, isn’t that called being principled?  Doing what you think is right in the face of criticism?

Not in NYRA’s case, I guess.

Jessica Chapel wrote about this yesterday.

In other NYRA news, our super-interested and pro-active legislators up in Albany had a little meeting this afternoon.  I was able to follow in bits and pieces thanks to a variety of Tweeters passing along information, some of which was utterly shocking (or maybe not) in nature, taken out of context though it was.

Assemblyman Bob Reilly (presumably this man) got a lot of airtime from @dgazette (from the Schenectady paper of the same name), and really, how could you resist when he throws up such gems as:

Reilly asks about impact of live streaming on attendance at race tracks

and

Reilly explains vote against NYCOTB bailout. Says he wanted to make sure this hearing occurred

Now again, I’ve got these comments out of context…but is he kidding? He voted to close down an entire company and put hundreds of people out of work…to make sure that the assembly would hold a meeting to merge the OTBs?  He couldn’t entice his fellow assembly members with, oh, the promise of some holiday cupcakes at the meeting? Or a kickback or two?

Was anyone out there watching? Did he say this with a straight face? With some sort of electively imbued sense of nobility?  Or did he crack himself up with its absurdity?  Do tell, do tell.

Next, via Jessica Chapel’s Twitter feed, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chair of the Committee on Racing & Wagering to Charles Hayward, NYRA president and CEO:

Pretlow to Hayward, re: NYRA allowing out-of-state ADWs to stream NY races. “Aren’t you causing your problems?”

I ask again: Really? Could he possibly not know that it’s HIS body, HIS New York State government, in conjunction with the state’s OTBs, that prohibit NYRA from streaming its own races on its own website? Could he possibly not know? Or does he somehow think that NYRA is responsible for both the OTBs and the government, too, and had a hand in drafting the law that prohibits them from marketing their own product?

According to Jessica, in response to a question from me, Hayward’s response on the incredulity meter of 1 – 10 was a 9+.

And those are  just two of the topics making the Internet rounds this week. Back tomorrow with an entirely theoretical discussion about the benefits in-state vs. out-of-state ADWs, and the Equine Injury Database findings about synthetic vs. dirt tracks.

9 thoughts on “New York racing news spices up the weekend

  1. TOTALLY Clueless is more like it:

    If NYC OTB does dissolve in the weeks ahead as it is now expected to, what I would hope happens is NYRA be allowed to essentially become a new version of NYC OTB and be allowed to open their own teletheaters within New York City itself, which under a law that dates back to the original OTB bill (http://www.drf.com/news/otb-closing-could-open-door-nyra-teletheaters) that apparently allows for such.

    As for why NYRA turned down the chance to run New York OTB themselves when it first started, it needs to be remembered what the culture was in 1969-’70, when OTB first became legal after then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller actually vetoed an earlier attempt to legalize OTB in New York in the early 1960s from my understanding:

    As New York was the first state to have OTB, people on the NYRA board likely were not only concerned about running OTB and “ruining racing” by giving people a reason to NOT go out to the track (the same reason tracks famously failed to take advantage of TV in the 1950’s). It also didn’t help that the attitudes in general towards gambling were far less tolerant in a lot of the country, and it was likely many on the NYRA board at that time were concerned about major backlashes from people in parts of the country where (especially in those days) pari-mutuel wagering was not legal and had no understanding of why off-track betting in New York was legal (and it also needs to be noted NYRA races weren’t even offered at OTB in the very beginning, those only started I believe in June of 1971). It would be another 16 years (after New York OTB began in ’71) before a state other than New York or Connecticut would have OTB (Illinois in 1987), and it’s really only been in the last 30 years that the attitudes towards gambling as a whole have changed to where they are now, and even that has taken a considerable amount of time.

    As for building new teletheaters if NYRA got the chance, NYRA could use in part something similar to how the Turf Clubs were done in Philadelphia (Parx Racing) as well as the sort-of in-track versions that actually are at Aqueduct and Belmont. The key, however, would be location: As much as possible, I would be looking to have such near subway stations, in particular major “hub” stations. A perfect example for Lower Manhattan would be to have one near the former OTB location at Park Place between Church Street and Broadway, across and a bit west of the Woolworth Building and close to Park Row and the soon-to-be-complete Fulton Transportation Center, which of course includes the PATH trains coming from New Jersey. That is one of the key locations I would be looking at for a seven-day-a-week location for a new NYRA teletheater if they get to open such.

  2. Teresa,

    You said, “But sometimes, shouldn’t we put aside concerns about how things look in order to do the right thing?”

    Here is my answer. Let’s say you want to travel from wherever you are to your home. There are two potential routes. The first takes 10 minutes, but you must walk through an ultra high crime area of town. The other takes 45 minutes, but goes through a safe area.

    Which do you take?

    Given the reality of Albany politics, as you and Jessica Chapel have so accurately described it, NYRA took the high crime route on the pay hikes. The Trustees could have accomplished the same thing by using some discretion.

  3. “If NYC OTB does dissolve in the weeks ahead as it is now expected to, what I would hope happens is NYRA be allowed to essentially become a new version of NYC OTB and be allowed to open their own teletheaters within New York City itself”

    I agree totally. It makes no sense that a separate entity has been running the OTB’s, some of which are located very close to the racetracks. I wonder how many dollars NYRA loses every year on wagers that are made at Rockaway and Woodhaven instead of Rockaway and 110th St.

  4. Pretty weird is the thinking by the New York media and the politicos. NYRA announced the raises many months ago, after Genting was named handle the Aqueduct casino….. after ONLY 9 years after the plan was approved. Amazing how the media and politicos chose to focus on the timing in regards to NYCOTB shuttering. The politicos could have approved some type of NYCOTB plan, if they really wanted to support it but, they didn’t. Small wonder why they didn’t.

    Any surprise that nothing has happened with the politicians ie: Smith and Meeks and Paterson in regards to trying to perpetuate the AEG scam. An absolute travesty! Let’s see, both a New York and federal investigation, a New York report months ago by Fisch revealed considerable cover-ups. Hmmm, who is the New York Attorney General, and why has nothing been announced or been done? Any doubts as to where their priorities and their focus lie?

    • Thanks, August, for the link to the Miller article. Not sure what you mean about the raises being announced months ago – where did you see that? I must have missed it.

      I agree, Cheryl. Would be great to have more of those wagering dollars going back to the company that supplies the product.

      I can’t argue with you, Nick; I just don’t think that they’ve deserved all the criticism they’ve gotten.

      Walt, let’s hope that New York gets a chance to get it right this time.

  5. Teresa after Genting was approved for the Aqueduct casino deal, Charlie had commented that raises would be put forth and upcoming in 2011 for NYRA employees. I remember. I was so relieved that finally a credible contractor and not a scam group like AEG had won the contract. I did not make anything up but, I’ve tried googling to see if I could find some further recorded written documentation but, I could not. Really weird. Ask Charlie, if what I’m relating is true. It is.

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