State must rein in NYRA

Let’s hope the state’s problems with gambling stay confined to the New York Racing Association.

The last thing taxpayers need is similar problems popping up as the state gets ready to expand casino gambling.

A state report recently slammed NYRA for overcharging bettors $7.4 million because of failures at “every level” by the group.

NYRA – which holds the state franchise to run racing at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga race tracks – got dinged by the state’s inspector general for charging one percentage point more in “takeout” fees for so-called exotic wagers for 15 months beginning in September 2010.

The report said NYRA officials should have known that the state law allowing a takeout higher than 25 percent for those bets had expired. But “every level of audit and control,” from former top executive Charles Hayward on down, failed to identify the problem, according to the report. Hayward and NYRA’s general counsel were terminated in 2012 after the problem surfaced publicly.

NYRA was able to repay only $611,604 to bettors, but set the takeout rate for exotic wagers one point below the legal limit to compensate.

NYRA’s current chairman, David Skorton, said they have new procedures and internal controls designed to prevent a repeat of the overcharge. Skorton said NYRA is a “far different organization” than it was two years ago.

We’ve heard that before.

Keep in mind when the overcharging started. September 2010 was just a few months after the state Legislature approved allowing a $25 million loan to NYRA, and that was not the first time the organization needed a bailout.

The state must get a firm grip on what is going on here. Without proper oversight, there is little reason to think expanding gambling in New York state will ultimately lead to anything other than well-paid bureaucrats and taxpayers covering losses that should not happen.