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More Franchise Hearings Scheduled In New York
With the "deadline ticking before New York's thoroughbred racing franchise expires, the state Senate has announced 3 public hearings to consider the future of the industry in New York," reported bloodhorse.com. During the 1st session on September 27, officials "will review Governor Eliot Spitzer's recently proposed memorandum of understanding in which the NY Racing Association would be awarded a 30-year extension to its exclusive franchise (held since 1955) to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park & Saratoga". Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno (who holds veto power over the governor's plan because of his control of the Republican-led Senate) has criticised Spitzer's plan & said more entities from the industry in North America (including Churchill Downs & Magna Entertainment) need to be involved in running racing in the state. Another hearing (during the 1st week of October) "will consider various matters involving the franchise & its impact on towns near Belmont"; several proposals have been floated involving Belmont "including eventually locating a video lottery terminal casino there & renovating it to be able to handle winter racing". The final hearing (during the 2nd week of October) "will take testimony involving the best business model for the franchise"; NYRA & state officials "have said the long-standing model under which NYRA has operated does not work", however "no-one has yet to settle on a new plan". The Senate will invite representatives from the 4 bidding groups (NYRA, Empire Racing Associates, Excelsior Racing Associates & Australian-backed Capital Play) to appear at the 3rd hearing. Senate Racing Committee chairman William Larkin summed up: "It is very important that an appropriate business model for the management of the state racing franchise is developed as soon as possible to ensure New York has the strongest racing in the world." Larkin noted any future model "must ensure that all tracks operate at a profit, expand breeding in the state & boost VLT payments to the state".