Reports First Operational Profit Since 2001
For the first time in 13 years, the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) operations are in the money, the organization’s leader reported during a meeting of the NYRA Reorganization Board last Wednesday, Dec. 3.
According to NYRA President and CEO Christopher Kay, the racing outfit that operates Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, Belmont Park on the Queens/Nassau border and upstate Saratoga Race Course is projected to end the year with a $1.5 million operational surplus. The figure is six times larger than a surplus NYRA projected at the start of 2014.
Overall, the NYRA is expected to have a $14.4 million net revenue increase over 2013.
For the past few years, the NYRA reported increased revenue buoyed from income it received from the video lottery terminals at Resorts World New York within Aqueduct’s former grandstand. By law, the NYRA and horsemen across the state receive a percentage of casino proceeds in order to support racing operations.
Even so, the NYRA Reorganization Board-formed in 2012 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reform the racing outfit-continued to report deficits in operating the three tracks; this is the first time since Resorts World opened in 2011 that the NYRA showed a profit independent of casino income.
“We are proud of the enormous strides we have taken to improve our long-term financial stability,” Kay said. “We recognize the important role of our operations for the people of New York, as well as the thoroughbred racing industry, which is responsible for more than 17,400 jobs, and contributes more than $2.1 billion towards New York’s urban, suburban and rural economy.”
Various cost-cutting and revenue-generating measures proved to be a winning formula for the NYRA this year. The organization increased admission charges and simulcast signal fees and made capital improvements to attract new customers, such as the Longshots sports bar that opened at Aqueduct in April.
Marquee racing cards featuring lucrative purses held at Belmont Park and Saratoga also brought out bigger betting fields and crowds- and, thus, increased wagering and other forms of on-track revenue.
The NYRA also saved money this year by closing Aqueduct during non-racing months. With hundreds of horses stabled on the backstretch, the Big A was open for training year-round-even when the races were run at Belmont and Saratoga-until this year.
Along with announcing a profit, Kay noted the NYRA is now debtfree, as it fully repaid a $25 million loan it received from Genting Americas, which operates Resorts World New York. The loan was obtained after NYRA secured a 25- year renewal of its racing license from New York State and ceded to the state all ownership claims to the tracks.
During last Wednesday’s meeting, the board also approved a 2015 budget which projects that NYRA will achieve a $2.1 million operational surplus next year, again without factoring casino revenue. It also includes $36 million in capital improvements at all three of its tracks.
At Aqueduct, the organization plans to install a new public address system; refurbish the Manhattan Terrace bar and betting area; and construct a new lounge for owners and trainers. This follows up on previous improvements made at Aqueduct, including the installation of new murals, high-definition television screens, a digital horse tracking system (Trakus) and a video toteboard.
In November, Kay announced that the NYRA Reorganization Board-which is beginning the process of transitioning the outfit back into the private sector-would not consider deliberating or deciding Aqueduct’s long-term fate.