OTB may still shut down despite takeover

Fate of OTB comes down to the wire
June 14, 2008 8:03:32 PM PDT
The debate over the fate of off-track betting in New York City is coming down to the wire. City and state officials negotiated all day Saturday over the future of the city's Off-Track Betting Corp. gambling parlors, which could be shut down as soon as Monday because of financial problems.

Gov. David Paterson announced Friday that the state would step in and save the troubled, government-owned operation. Hours later, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said no deal had been reached and the city still planned to shutter the facilities after the close of business on Sunday.

The city and state have been fighting for years over revenue from OTB. Saturday's negotiations hinged on whether the city would continue to get some money from the operations after a state takeover.

A spokeswoman for Paterson said the governor believed an arrangement could be made to keep the parlors open.

"We are confident that the 1,500 off-track betting employees will be able to report to work on Monday," said spokeswoman Risa Heller.

OTB handles nearly $1 billion annually in bets. But state law requires it to turn over so much of its revenue to the state that in recent years, nothing has been left for the city, which is financially responsible for the operation.

Bloomberg has said for months that he would close OTB, rather than have taxpayers subsidize it. He has said Sunday would be the last day.

Paterson's plan would relieve the city of the responsibility of running OTB, but it would also eliminate any possibility that the city could again enjoy a share of the gambling revenue. The mayor wants the city to continue to receive a cut.

The mayor's office continued to stress Saturday that he wants the city to derive some benefit from the betting parlors.

"If OTB is operating in New York City, it should actually benefit the public here in New York City," Bloomberg spokesman Jim Anderson said. "The proposal yesterday didn't do that, and we've been working today with the state to find a solution that does."

Some 60 OTB branches were operating around the city in February, but several already have closed.