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Post date: June 24 2003

Statement By Attorney General Eliot Spitzer Regarding The New York Racing Association

Earlier this month, my office issued a report that was critical of the management of the New York Racing Association (NYRA). The report cited a lack of appropriate financial and operational controls and rampant criminal activity at state-owned thoroughbred racing tracks.

I had hoped that the report would be catalyst for reform at NYRA. Instead, NYRA officials insist that no one understands racing but they. These officials say that "their" tracks are well-managed, and that whatever problems exist, they uncovered and brought to the authorities' attention.

This response is inaccurate, at best.

The state-owned tracks at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct are not well managed. The clearest evidence of this is that 22 NYRA employees have been indicted and 19 convicted for schemes ranging from tax evasion to the laundering of drug money. More cases are pending.

NYRA officials claim to have "uncovered" this wrongdoing and say they assisted state officials in prosecuting tellers. This version of events contrasts dramatically with the understanding of investigators from my office, the State Police and the State Inspector General.

We found that NYRA officials were cooperative only until damaging information was uncovered. At that point, officials became quite uncooperative. Compliance was obtained only through the use of subpoenas.

NYRA's response – articulated today by outside counsel -- was all about protecting and perpetuating the existing management structure. Whether NYRA officials like it or not, they have an obligation to state taxpayers and track patrons to ensure integrity and accountability. In this regard, proceeds from state-owned tracks are the people's money, not their money.

NYRA officials were warned as early as 1995 that they lacked proper financial controls. If they listened to their accountants, outside consultants, state auditors and regulators and implemented such policies, they wouldn't be in this position today.

Ironically, NYRA officials now say they are considering buying new machines that would result in an accurate count of the day's receipts. It is too little, too late.

I stand by the report and its conclusions, and I call upon NYRA's Board of Trustees to address the fundamental structural problems we have diagnosed. Similarly, I call upon the State Legislature and the Executive to address the lack of oversight of these major public assets.