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Aqueduct top bosses fired

Bettors at Aqueduct might not be getting all the money they laid on the horses -- and the New York Racing Association responded by dismissing two top executives.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The New York Racing Association, which oversees the racetrack at Aqueduct, said Friday it fired two top executives after a state report revealed they illegally withheld $8.5 million in bettor winnings.

Charles Hayward, NYRA’s president and chief executive officer, and Patrick Kehoe, the association’s general counsel, were first placed on administrative leave without pay after the two “failed to perform their duties,” according to a statement by NYRA.

Days later, their full dismissal was made official Friday.

The state Racing and Wagering Board released a report April 29 indicating that NYRA withheld more money than what is legally allowed at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga racetracks. The board oversees NYRA’s operations.

According to the report, NYRA charged bettors an extra percentage point on certain wagers from Sept. 15, 2010, through Dec. 21, 2011.

C. Steven Duncker, chairman of NYRA, said he was alerted to the improprieties in a letter from the state Franchise Oversight Board, which is headed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget chief, Robert Megna.

“NYRA takes the matters identified by the Franchise Oversight Board and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board extremely seriously,” Duncker said. “NYRA will take all appropriate steps and actions to cooperate with the state’s inquiries and insure the integrity of our operations. NYRA has worked diligently over the past number of years to improve the racing and agricultural industries in New York state and enhance its national status as an industry leader, and we will continue with that commitment.”

In response, Hayward said he was “extremely disappointed” with the board’s action and claimed that the report and the investigation were “flawed and admittedly incomplete.”

“The interim report badly misinterprets documents and was prepared without interviewing me or any other individuals relevant to their investigation,” he said. “I have been fully cooperating and will continue to fully cooperate with the NYRA board. I look forward to the Racing and Wagering Board and the New York inspector general completing their investigations as expeditiously as possible. I expect to be fully exonerated when all of the facts come out.”

But NYRA’s problems do not end with two top executives getting the boot. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called into question the association’s history and said legislative action is being considered.

Cuomo said he is considering legislative reform to NYRA, which has come under fire most recently for a rash of horse deaths at Aqueduct.

“It seems like there is a never-ending list of problems at NYRA,” Cuomo said in a radio address.

Resorts World Casino New York City, which operates the racino at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park, did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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