NYRA Taking Steps to Stop the Bleeding
Updated: Sunday, December 12, 2010 1:07 PM
Posted: Saturday, December 11, 2010 3:04 PM
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
NYRA president Charles Hayward
The New York Racing Association is hoping for a deal as early as next week to get the defunct New York City Off-Track Betting Corp.’s television channel turned back on and is working with state officials to get permission to offer live video streaming of its races.
NYRA president Charles Hayward said he is operating on the assumption that NYCOTB will never be brought back to life despite a still-furious attempt by unions, other OTBs, and some politicians to try a new plan to get the shuttered OTB back in business.
Hayward said NYRA, which is NYCOTB’s largest creditor in its Chapter 9 bankruptcy case, is not part of any talks that may be going on to re-open NYCOTB and its 50 parlors and ADW operations.
“People have had months to fix the OTB thing,’’ Hayward said in a Dec. 11 interview of claims by some industry officials that other tracks and OTBs are getting close to their own deal to get NYCOTB running again.
Hayward said NYRA is spending its time trying to get more people to Aqueduct, in part with free bus service for bettors from some shut-down NYCOTB parlors. He said talks are also underway with the state to permit NYRA to offer live video streaming on the internet of its races and said a deal may be close with New York City’s government to get Channel 71, the NYCOTB racing channel, back on the air to show NYRA races. He said it would also be a way to market NYRA’s ADW operation to the channel’s viewers.
NYCOTB provided about $18 million a year in statutory payments for purses at NYRA tracks, in addition to $14.7 million for NYRA operations.
But the complexities of the state’s racing money distribution formula presents some opportunities for NYRA. NYCOTB had been paying NYRA about 2.7% of its handle on bets made at parlors and over the internet and phone accounts.
But NYRA gets to keep 10% of the handle on live bets, and the state considers live bets to also include wagers made through NYRA’s ADW operation. Also, if a NYCOTB ADW patron migrates to an out-of-state ADW, NYRA would get about 50% more per wager than it had gotten on bets on its races made through NYCOTB.
“So to recoup the lost (NYCOTB) money we don’t have to generate the same level,’’ Hayward said.
In the past week, NYRA has gotten about 300 new ADW clients. NYCOTB shut down early Dec. 8 after the state Senate failed to pass a bill already approved by the Assembly to reorganize NYCOTB.
With NYCOTB closed, NYRA’s total handle on Dec. 9 was off 3.9%. A day later, it was down 8.3%.
NYRA on Dec. 12 is opening a betting café at Belmont to try to capture former NYCOTB parlor bettors from the nearby area.
Hayward dismissed the idea—at least in the short term—of NYRA trying to take over any of NYCOTB’s shut-down parlors or larger teletheaters. NYRA would need new state licenses and the approval of the state Legislature.
“There are union and political issues associated with that,’’ Hayward said. He added NYRA could be interested in operating facilities in New York City if there were different types of parlors and a long-term strategy by the state involving tracks and OTBs.
Assembly hearings are planned for next week to look at possibly ending the state’s decades-old, multi-region OTB approach by creating a single, statewide entity.
Sources say state Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini is also calling a “stakeholders’’ meeting early next week to address the problems and potential opportunities from the NYCOTB closure.
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