Bettors Rapidly Closing NYCOTB Accounts

NYCOTB remains closed despite a push Dec. 9 to get the state Senate to re-vote.

Despite a furious push into the night Dec. 9 by unions to get the state Senate back to Albany to try another vote, the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. remains closed with bettors fleeing its ADW accounts by the hour.

“Every day that goes by the chances of revival diminishes because the bettors will find other places to bet,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Assembly racing committee.

State officials say they do not have numbers yet on how many NYCOTB ADW customers have closed their accounts, but sources say the accounts have been sharply draining down 48 hours now since the OTB closed its doors. They say even if the NYCOTB were to come back to life, it would be difficult to get those bettors back.

Gov. David Paterson said he believes all OTBs in New York “are now in jeopardy” since the NYCOTB shut down earlier this week following rejection in the Senate of a reorganization plan for the betting company that has been under Chapter 9 protection the past year.

Alternative betting outlets have been reaching out to NYCOTB patrons to get them to turn their bets elsewhere the past two days. The state racing board quickly approved a fast-track process for ADW applications to lure NYCOTB bettors to other state-regulated entities, including the New York Racing Association, other OTBs, and tracks.

Unions were pressing the evening of Dec. 9 to get the Senate to return to Albany as soon as Dec. 10, but Senate Democratic sources insist there are no deals yet to bring the full house back for another try. The reorganization bill--backed by its Chapter 9 creditors, including NYRA--failed by three votes Dec. 7, pushing the OTB to shuts its operations several hours later.

The problem, industry officials say, is that every day that goes by more and more NYCOTB bettors are finding other outlets for their horseracing dollars--which totaled about $750 million over the past year at the shuttered OTB. About $140 million of that, according to NYCOTB president Greg Rayburn, went through internet and telephone accounts with the OTB.

The movement away of the ADW patrons, officials say, is also quickly making the NYCOTB internet and phone betting platform less valuable. The reorganization plan called for New York creditors, mostly led by NYRA and other tracks, to create a new corporation to take over the NYCOTB ADW operation.

Paterson told reporters Dec. 9 that it will be “very hard” to start the corporation back up in January when new governor Andrew Cuomo takes over.

Earlier in the day, he told a New York radio station there are no active negotiations going on to try to save the OTB. Senate Republicans, who voted against the reorganization plan because they wanted financial incentives to also be given to other OTBs in the state beyond the state-owned NYCOTB, have been insisting for two days that talks are occurring to try for a deal to resolve the dispute.

“We’re not negotiating,” Paterson told WOR radio. He said the Senate Republicans were being unreasonable in their demands because the state’s other OTBs, unlike NYCOTB, are not in bankruptcy and haven’t made the same kinds of cost-cutting concessions as the defunct OTB.

The shutdown cost about 1,000 NYCOTB workers their jobs. Unions have been pushing for two days to get the Senate back to Albany to attempt another vote on the reorganization bill. The measure was already approved by the Assembly, and Pretlow said Dec. 9 the Assembly will not consider a Senate GOP alternative that provides financial breaks for the state’s other OTBs.

“We’re not entertaining the Senate bill at all,” Pretlow said.

Senate Racing Committee Chairman Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat, said there was a push to try to get the Senate back to Albany as soon as Dec. 10.

“But Senator Sampson made clear he won’t call the members back without the votes,” Adams said of Senate Dem. conference leader John Sampson.

The vote-counting is on. Several Democrats skipped or were absent from the Senate session this week, forcing the need for Republicans--who are in the minority until January when they are poised to take back the Senate--to join on the bill.

Democrats believe two Senate Democrats who were absent this week--Kevin Parker of Brooklyn and Malcolm Smith of Queens--would be able to make it to a new session to reconsider the bill. That is still one vote short of what is needed.

“The closer to actual liquidation, it makes it challenging,” Adams said. “If we’re going to do something, we have got to do it now.”

But, he added of reopening the OTB, “It’s definitely tough.”