State may take over New York City OTB

June 11, 2008 12:49:46 PM PDT
With private talks so far unable to resolve difficult issues, Gov. David Paterson said Wednesday the state may have to take over the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. beginning Sunday. Asked by a reporter if the state could assume operation of the 38-year-old city institution, Paterson said: "Because of the urgency of the situation, there is no option that I won't explore at this point. That's how difficult it is."

State and city officials are trying negotiate a new revenue sharing agreement that will better fund the many beneficiaries of OTB's take from its 60 branches and eight restaurants, including governments and the racing industry. The deadline facing the OTB board is Sunday.

"I don't want to be a pessimist, but at the moment, our plan is Sunday will be the last day OTB is open in New York City," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday. He said he won't lay off even one police officer, firefighter or teacher "so that we can support a bookie operation."

Bloomberg cited dwindling OTB payments to government in recent years despite its handling more than $1 billion in bets annually.

Last year, OTB reported a $13 million shortfall.

"The mayor's reading is pretty accurate," Paterson said Wednesday.

"There are so many layers of issues between OTB, the state, NYRA," Paterson said, referring to the New York Racing Association, which runs thoroughbred racing at the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga race tracks. "We're trying. But it's a very difficult process."

"I don't know if we can beat the deadline," Paterson said. "Obviously, because a number of people would lose jobs and it would really be a problem, it's a priority for us right now."

The directors of the financially troubled OTB have called for the gambling operation to close. That would leave about 1,500 employees looking for work.