Wynn partner in racing association

ALBANY, N.Y. — Las Vegas developer Steve Wynn is partnering in Excelsior Racing Associates, which is vying to run and improve New York Racing.

Excelsior faces competition from New York Racing Association, which has held the franchise since 1955, Empire Racing and Capital Play.

Billions of tax dollars are at stake.

Excelsior offered a $1.875 billion package, including $1 billion for renovations and construction at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga race tracks, in a presentation Wednesday in Albany, N.Y. The rest would be in franchise fees paid to the state.

The plan includes thousands of video slot machines at Aqueduct and Belmont, where a high-end hotel could be built. The bid also includes putting in safer synthetic tracks in at least some racing areas, $25 billion to state education funds over 20 years, perhaps a high-rise garage at Belmont to end the long walk from the parking lot, $17 million to create dormitories for backstretch workers at all tracks with onsite medical care and grocery service, and $14 million a year more for New York breeders.

Wynn, best known for developing Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio, The Mirage and Treasure Island, said they will innovate, too. He offered one idea after a former jockey said he once wore a helmet camera for ESPN-TV during a race.

Wynn suggested jockeys could regularly wear cameras and the signals would be beamed on 15-foot television screens in sports bars for bettors.

“You think they’ll look? Sure! That’s the tomorrow of this,” Wynn said. “You do that kind of thing before big crowds and they will catch on.”

Their presentation followed one with a more international approach.

Capital Play, an Australian company now with a New York office, would explore night thoroughbred racing, turn Aqueduct into a “hip, urban” entertainment site, consider expanding races to 12 horses instead of eight, and simplify betting. The company also guaranteed the state more than $1 billion.

“Our goal is to reinvent New York state thoroughbred horse racing,” Capital Play CEO Karl O’Farrell said. The Irish-born business graduate of the prestigious Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania said his team has expertise with racing worldwide.

Capital Play and Excelsior plan only maintenance at Saratoga Race Course, NYRA’s big money maker and the oldest track in the country that still draws international crowds to the short, summer meet. Both bidders would also work with off-track betting agencies to end competition and duplicative costs that have hurt tracks and OTBs.

NYRA and Empire Racing presented their plans Tuesday. The current franchise expires Dec. 31.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the state Legislature will award the franchise.

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