Preliminary negotiations have begun at the state Capitol in Albany to address New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s threat to shut down the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. in June.
Bloomberg has said the city will no longer provide money to prop up the OTBs, and wants to re-direct money that the money-losing operation now directs to the state and racetracks back into its own ledgers.
The NYCOTB board has said the sprawling betting operation will cease operations June 16 unless Albany comes up with a fix to its financial problems.
“NYC OTB provides good paying jobs to its 1,500 workers,” New York Governor David Paterson said in a written statement issued after negotiations began April 15 at the Capitol.
“Given the current economic downturn, it is especially important that we take steps to ensure the financial viability of this venture because of the importance of these jobs to these 1,500 families and to the broader economy. In addition, OTBs should generate significant excess funds that local governments can use to provide needed services and reduce property taxes,’’ he said.
It is unclear what kind of fix will be turned to, especially since the state just adopted a new budget last week that might have been the place for the state to step in with some funding to help resolve what Bloomberg has said is a crisis. Critics say the state is already over-spending in its budget, especially given the financial downturn in New York, and that the state cannot afford to bail out the OTB. That could leave racetracks, especially the New York Racing Association, open to help cure some of the NYCOTB’s problems.
One top Republican seemed to suggest as much on April 15. “The plan that we adopt should include an alignment of the economic interests of the tracks and the OTBs in order to succeed,’’ Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said.
Paterson, in his statement, said any deal will likely go beyond just the NYCOTB, but include the state’s other five off-track betting corporations. And he seemed to also signal that other entities in the industry will have to contribute more to NYCOTB to avert a shutdown.
“By charging less money from NYC OTB while it gets back on its feet financially, all of the entities that benefit from OTB will benefit in the long run,” Paterson said. “I will ask the Legislature to look not only at the short-term fix that will be needed to stabilize OTB’s operations, but at long-term changes that can make all six of the State’s OTBs more profitable and productive. I am confident that with the cooperation of all affected parties, a solution will be reached that puts NYCOTB on sound financial footing in order to avoid the scheduled close-down date in June.”