The New York State Racing Committee places two top NYRA officials on administrative leave. NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Patrick Kehoe are both on unpaid leave. This comes after the release of the state racing and wagering board's report, indicating that NYRA knowingly withheld millions of dollars in winning bets from bettors at NYRA operated racetracks. Governor Cuomo weighed in on the news. YNN's Zack Fink Reports.
NEW YORK STATE -- The New York Racing Association, or NYRA operates three racetracks at aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga.
But according to a report by the state's racing and wagering board, NYRA intentionally held back roughly $8.5 million that was won by bettors at the track.
Governor Cuomo said, “It was shocking to me. And if the facts are correct, it's very troubling to say the least. And it's been referred to the inspector general and we'll await the report."
The payouts concern high stakes wagering, where bettors choose multiple horses in a single race. The association was allowed to keep 25 percent of the take on those bets, but for 15 months it kept 26 percent.
Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, the Racing and Wagering Cmt. Chair said, “We will get to the bottom of it. I know that my committee is, or at least I'm right now putting together a small task force to find out what went on and how we can make things better."
The allegations come just as Governor Cuomo is looking to legalize casino gambling. A recent vote in the legislature would authorize up to seven casinos statewide, after gambling is first approved by voters in a referendum.
And Pretlow said these allegations will not erode the public's confidence in the government's ability to adequately regulate it.
Pretlow said, "When we put casino gaming together, there will be adequate controls. And issues like this won't take place."
In a statement NYRA Chairman C. Steven Duncker said "The NYRA Board of Directors takes the concerns expressed in this report very seriously."
The governor is also looking to regulate all gaming: racing, casinos and the lottery under a single government oversight agency.
Senator John Bonacic said, “I think there would be more accountability. More transparency. And things might be less likely to go astray."
The inspector general's office will go forward with it's investigation. But Bonacic said it doesn't necessarily end there. He said he will use his committee to hold public hearings and force documents regarding public money to be made public that the association previously said were protected by attorney client privilege.
NYRA's chairman, Steven Duncker, released the following statement:
“NYRA takes the matters identified by the Franchise Oversight Board and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board extremely seriously."
“NYRA will take all appropriate steps and actions to cooperate with the State’s inquiries and insure the integrity of our operations."