Bill to Re-Open NYCOTB Dies in Committee

Bill failed to get enough votes to pass a New York state Senate committee March 8.

A long-shot measure to re-open the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. failed to get enough votes to even make it out of a New York state Senate committee on March 8.

“Is there a second?’’ Senate Racing Committee Chairman John Bonacic asked fellow lawmakers to move the bill along in the process. No one answered several of his calls.

Only four lawmakers attended the meeting, and Bonacic’s only other Republican colleague at the session--Senator Roy McDonald, who represents the Saratoga Springs area--balked at the measure.

“It would be an unwise vote on my part,” McDonald said. He added the bill would cut payments to harness tracks like the one he represents in Saratoga, and would not make the New York Racing Association whole for the $25 million or so it is still owed from the shuttered NYCOTB. The NYCOTB closed down in December after its Chapter 9 reorganization bill was rejected in the Senate.

“I want to be a good team player,” McDonald said of the bill sponsored by a fellow Republican, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island.

Bonacic said the effort is to try to pick up the pieces left from NYCOTB. “It’s over. It’s a completed act,” Bonacic said of the NYCOTB.

The Lanza bill would create a competitive bidding process for a private company to take over all or a portion of NYCOTB’s operations. It also cuts certain statutory payments to harness tracks by OTBs and provides health and pension benefit protections to NYCOTB workers who lost their jobs.

Senate Democrats used the stalling of the bill to poke fun at the GOP-led Senate.

“Last December, Senator Lanza gallantly proclaimed, ‘When I’m in the majority in January, we’ll work this out.’ It’s not March and there is still no answer,” said Austin Shafran, a Senate Democratic spokesman. “Those 1,000 workers he let down have not given up hope, and vital services to thousands more are on the chopping block because of lost revenue.”