Belmont, Saratoga, Aqueduct to keep running thanks to $25 million loan from state

Thursday, May 27, 2010

NY tracks to stay open after state loan of $25M

ALBANY, N.Y. — The Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct racetracks will stay open after New York’s thoroughbred racing operator received a $25 million loan from the state.

The New York Racing Association notified more than 1,400 workers last week that the cash-strapped racing operator might have to close the tracks after the Belmont Stakes on June 5.

The NYRA loan is part of a measure to extend basic state government operations in the absence of an approved budget for this year. It would have to be repaid by March 31 or within 30 days of a state agreement with a contractor to install video lottery terminals at Aqueduct.

The Senate and Assembly approved the bill late Monday and Gov. David Paterson signed it. Spokesman Morgan Hook said the money won’t be sent at once but no races will be canceled.

NYRA chairman Steven Duncker said the three tracks are waiting for the state’s recommendation in August of a firm to develop and operate the Aqueduct racino. He said revenue from that project is “fundamental” if NYRA is to meet its 2008 franchise agreement with the state.

NYRA says more than 1.6 million people attended races at the three tracks last year, and the average daily handle, including nationwide off-track betting, was more than $9.3 million.

The agency estimates the thoroughbred racing business contributes more than $2 billion annually to the state’s economy.

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