NY Lawmaker: Return Betting to City Bars

NYRA offered a plan for betting in New York City, but no action was taken.

Using the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) to make his point, New York Assemblyman Micah Kellner, who represents Manhattan, railed on officials for not moving to offer offtrack betting at bars and restaurants in New York City.

New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. closed in late 2010. Kellner said there were six bars in five city boroughs that produced pari-mutuel handle of $5 million on the Kentucky Derby and $10 million on all races on the day.

Kellner proposes revenue from the OTB bars be allocated for state education.

“How is it that New York is such a bad bookie that we can’t make a buck on Derby day?” Kellner said in a May 5 release. “On the day of the most famous race in the country, New York has to get back on the horse. The New York Racing, Wagering and Gaming Commission, with its stalling, is forcing not only the hardcore handicapper but the casual Kentucky Derby fan to scratch from the race.

“New York State is losing out on easy money. New Yorkers are losing out on the chance to bet legally and simply by going to their neighborhood bar. The New York State Racing, Wagering & Gaming Commission has to get out of the starting gate and put the machines back into the six bars where they were before.”

The New York Racing Association, currently under investigation over a situation involving pari-mutuel takeout issues, earlier this year proposed bringing wagering to up to 40 sites in New York City to win back some money lost by the shutdown of NYCOTB. Estimated annual revenue would be about $165 million, according to the NYRA proposal, which has not won state approval, Kellner said.

The assemblyman wants the betting machines installed in time for the May 19 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), according to his staff.

“I call on NYRA and the New York Racing, Wagering and Gaming Commission to put these machines back in our bars and restaurants immediately,” Kellner said. “This weekend, while racing fans all over the country bet over $150 million on the Kentucky Derby, New York is deprived by not having a legal way to place bets by not having these machines in place. This is unacceptable.”

NYRA offers wagering at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, and through its NYRA Rewards advance deposit wagering system. The association is under fire, and on May 4 fired its chief executive officer and head attorney for failing to lower pari-mutuel takeout after the mandated hike expired.