I’ve long loved words that have two definitions that contradict each other. “Enjoin,” for instance. If you are enjoined to do something, it’s obligatory. If you are enjoined from doing something, it’s forbidden.

“Peruse” is another. If you peruse something, you are either reading it carefully, or skimming it casually.

(Note: that which delights me drives my students batty.)

Some clever person coined the word “antagonym” to identify these words, words whose meanings are, in effect, antagonistic to one another.

And antagonism is not, it seems, an inconsiderable factor in recent uses of another favorite antagonym, “oversight,” as in Franchise Oversight Board.

Oversight”:  watchful and responsible care.

Or: inadvertent omission or error.

How great is that?

The Franchise Oversight Board was established in 2008 when the New York Racing Association was awarded a 25-year franchise to run Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. Paul Post wrote then in Thoroughbred Times that the board’s mandate was to “monitor the business practices of the New York Racing Association.”

Last month, the Franchise Oversight Board came out with guns blazing when it was disclosed that NYRA had been imposing a higher-than-allowed takeout on a number of wagers. Robert Megna, chair of the Franchise Oversight Board, sent a scathing letter to Charles Hayward, president and COO of NYRA, suggesting that Hayward and others at NYRA were doing little to earn their “high compensation” in light of the organization’s “failure to manage a most basic accounting task.”

The letter did not mention Mr. Megna’s own organization, whose job is to oversee NYRA’s business practices. An oversight?

Two days ago, James Odato in the Times Union wrote about a new investigation, this one into whether NYRA’s ADW (full disclosure: a long and prominent advertiser on this site) has been improperly allowing wagering on credit. The investigation by the State Racing and Board was prompted by a letter from Megna, of the Franchise Oversight Board. He seems to enjoy writing letters. And overseeing.

Yesterday, it was NYRA who let go with both barrels, vociferously defending its practices in a press release, saying that the funding practices of NYRA Rewards are “in compliance with the law and pursuant to the procedures approved by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.”

Matt Hegarty in the Daily Racing Form notes that those funding practices are “identical to those used by other account-wagering companies.”

Is it possible that Mr. Megna didn’t know that the funding practices were approved by the State Racing and Wagering Board? Or that they are in compliance with the law? Was there, perhaps, some oversight in his inquiry?

Or do his questions suggest that NYRA is conducting business in a way other than it stipulates openly on its website?  Is he acting as his position requires, with oversight?

In either case, in a world in which government agencies are often given euphemistic and obfuscatory names, New York State government seems, unusually to have gotten it right with the Franchise Oversight Board.

“Oversight,” indeed.



6 thoughts on “Oversight

  1. NY politicians and their minions have found NYRA a convenient target for almost a decade. Oddly, they usually criticize NYRA for the wrong reasons.

    In the last two instances the FOB was correct on the takeout issue, dead wrong on the ADW funding issue (assuming NYRA is indeed complying with the law).

    The latter could have been handled with a phone call or two, rather than grandstanding in the media. But then, they wouldn’t be politicians, would they?

  2. I agree with Nick, but would add that the fact that it was handled in the media first implies to me that the pols’ patience with NYRA is growing fiber-thin. I’ll offer 3-1 that we’ll hear from Megna again on an issue that may or may not have teeth…and that NYRA’s days are numbered.

  3. What I found interesting about the takeout letter was the ferocity with which Megna attacked NYRA’s management of the situation, while not at all mentioning its own negligence. Plenty of blame to go around in that instance, but pretty ironic that the group whose job it is to oversee the financials had no clue for more than a year, and seems unwilling to share responsibility for the mess.

  4. I think the blame squarely rests on NYRA and the NYSRWB. Just because the FOB did not “catch” this error doesn’t absolve NYRA for making a simple accounting error as the primary operator of horse wagering in the state. I am not sure if the FOB is a fulltime board and I don’t quite know for how long the FOB had access to all of NYRA’s books for a complete audit, but to suggest that there is plenty of blame to go around and the blame is somehow equal inaccurately deflects the responsibility away from the true operators of horse wagering in the state and how they preform their duty. After all it is NYRA and not the FOB that is taking my money and what I thought was accurately paying me out. It is more outrageous that this simple error of payout even occurred by any bookie which to me would be fundamental for receiving any sort of operation license or franchise. But I can happily disagree on this topic as long as NYRA, NYSRWB and the FOB all get the state of racing in NY corrected in the future which at the moment sadly seems like it has no where to go but down. (IMHO of course).

  5. I don’t know, KOW. You’re certainly right that NYRA and the RWB are responsible, but I’m not sure how you let the group that’s supposed to oversee business practices off the hook.

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