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New York Horsemen Oppose OTB Proposal

The New York THA won't support a proposed revenue model for New York City OTB Corp.

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association said June 4 it recognizes the contribution made to purses by New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. but won’t support a proposal that would reduce the amount NYCOTB pays to purses and the New York Racing Association.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has threatened to shutter NYCOTB if its revenue model isn’t revised. Employees already have been sent layoff notices.

The New York THA statement was released after Democratic Assemblyman Gary Pretlow of Westchester County said lawmakers are considering a deal that would restructure NYCOTB revenue sharing with tracks, horsemen, and breeders. Pretlow said NYRA, which would take a $12-million hit, would be compensated through an increase in pari-mutuel takeout.

In its statement, the New York THA said NYCOTB was “created in part to support the racing industry,” but under Bloomberg’s plan the entity would “become a drain” on the industry.

“Why should NYRA, NYTHA, and New York Thoroughbred Breeders have to underwrite NYCOTB’s operating inefficiencies when it already has such an adverse effect on the overall racing industry in New York State?” New York THA president Rick Violette Jr. said in the statement. “NYCOTB (even under the present legislative structure) does not pay its fair share for the pre-eminent simulcast racing signal in the world, and yet it seeks additional subsistence from an economically struggling industry.”

Violette said that in 1990, about 95% of all bets placed at NYCOTB were on New York races, but in 2007, the figure was less than 30% because the OTB corporation imported more and more out-of-state races at the expense of in-state tracks and horsemen.

“There are other options available to NYCOTB,” Violette said. “These include, but are not limited to, increasing the surcharge on winning bets made through its branches or institute them on bets made via the telephone; retention of its un-cashed pari-mutuel tickets, earmarking the capital reserve fund and other revenues sent to other governmental agencies to enhance its own profitability. In addition, explore the closure of unprofitable branches and reduce duplicative expenses, such as accounting procedures, simulcasting, tote, and wagering platform costs by merging those operations with other in-state racing entities.

“Mayor Bloomberg has made it abundantly clear that he has no real interest in the overall welfare and future of NYCOTB or the Thoroughbred racing industry. It would be unwise to allow an entity so vital to the racing industry to remain in the hands of such disinterested leadership. Whatever solution the governor and the legislature finds for NYCOTB’s immediate problems, it must include a binding commitment to either a merger with the NYRA or have NYRA take it over completely.”

Violette said he urges Gov. David Paterson to “seriously consider alternatives” offered by the Senate and Assembly.