One of the biggest questions surrounding the current Saratoga meet is what the NYRA board of directors will look after racing returns to Belmont next month. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, a seminar about the future of the troubled organization did nothing to clear up that uncertainty.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – While eager fans bet their money up the street at Saratoga Race Course, it was a more reserved atmosphere inside Saratoga's Gideon Putnam Hotel Wednesday.
A panel of racing executives and insiders discussed the future of the New York Racing Association, a future that's been unclear since spring when Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers announced plans for a complete overhaul the organization's board of directors.
"I think anyone who says they know doesn't know. I'm not saying it hasn't been decided yet but I don't know anyone who knows," said Dick Powell, a consultant who worked for NYRA from 1992 until 1996.
The discussion was part of Albany Law School's 12th annual Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law.
While it did start with a history lesson of NYRA, which included past and present woes like a franchise battle, bankruptcy, struggles to open a VLT casino at Aqueduct and this year's takeout scandal, the panelists spent less time criticizing NYRA and more on offering ideas to attract new fans to the sport.
Ideas included increased marketing, shortening the number of races each day and combining NYRA's and OTB's online gambling platforms.
"I don't want to say that everything NYRA has done or is doing now is bad. I think we all agree the Saratoga meet this year is pretty darn good," said Chris Wittstruck, the panel’s moderator and the director of the Standardbred Association of New York.
"If we had a single tote system, a single internet betting platform, you could do training on it, you could have fan education on it that would cross platforms so that everyone would benefit from it," Powell.
Though initially scheduled to, NYRA did not send a representative to the seminar.
With the Saratoga meet more than halfway over, the Governor’s announcement of a new board of directors is expected to come this fall. What follows is anybody's best guess.
"If you really think about it, it's obviously going to be vastly different, the questions is, is it going to be different for the better?” Wittstruck said. “If it's going to be different for the better, then it's a three year project that was well worth it."