Battle Between NYRA, OTBs Resurfaces

Battle Between NYRA, OTBs Resurfaces
Photo: File Photo

With the future of the New York City Off Track Betting Corp. up in the air, the New York Senate returned to the Capitol Tuesday, Dec. 7, to find itself in the middle of a long-standing battle between tracks and OTB corporations in the state.

Officials at the NYCOTB, which is in Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, vowed to shut down the state-owned betting giant at midnight Dec. 7 if the Senate does not pass a reorganization bill already approved last week by the Assembly.

For its part, the New York Racing Association said an alternative plan being floated by other OTBs will force NYRA back into bankruptcy. NYRA says the bill will cost NYRA $20 million a year in various revenues.

“NYRA cannot sustain a revenue reduction of $20 million and continue to operate the three racetracks” said NYRA’s president and CEO Charles Hayward. “The consequence of the legislation being advocated by the regional OTBs is that NYRA would be forced to close.”

NYRA, which is NYCOTB’s largest creditor and is owed $30 million by the OTB, is among the tracks that would take over NYCOTB’s ADW operations under the reorganization plan pushed by Gov. David Paterson and approved last week by the Assembly.

But other OTBs outside New York City insist that they be part of any bailout plan, such as a reduction in certain statutory payments.

By mid-day Tuesday, it was coming down to a numbers game. Senate Democrats, who have a razor-thin majority in a chamber they are poised to lose to Republicans come January, do not have enough votes to pass the NYCOTB bill on their own. At least three Senate Democrats are not at the Capitol. Republicans have signaled they want the alternative bill--to assist all the state’s OTBs--to get passed, though there is talk of several GOP senators breaking off to back the NYCOTB reorganization effort.

While NYCOTB floats its doomsday scenario, NYRA, which has remained largely silent on the public front in recent weeks, today issued its own closure threat.

“No regional OTB can survive long without the NYRA product,” Hayward said in a statement.  “The net result of the legislation being sought by the regional OTBs would be the eventual closure of their own corporations, and the elimination of thoroughbred racing in New York state.”

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