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New York Officials Working to Save OTB

New York officials are working on a plan to save OTBs from closing.

State officials are working on a plan to help keep the New York City Off Track Betting Corp. from shutting by shaving up to 20% of revenue-sharing the OTB now makes to various entities, including the New York Racing Association, out-of-state tracks, and breeding programs.

“We just can’t allow to slice too fine here. The clock is ticking and we need to come up with something that is a long-term solution so it stays open,’’ Paul Francis, a senior advisor to New York Gov. David Paterson said the morning of May 6.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has threatened to shut down the OTB, saying the city will no longer bail it out. While some officials in Albany dismiss Bloomberg’s call as a bluff, the city, officials say, has already taken steps to begin laying off workers next month. It employs about 1,400 workers.

The plan by the Paterson administration calls for a change in the formula in which OTB makes distribution payments to various entities. For NYRA, that would mean as much as $12 million less in payments, an amount Francis said could be “mitigated’’ with some other ideas on the table; he declined to elaborate.

Francis said New York State and New York City now get between $15 million and $17 million in distributions from the OTB. That would be cut by between 15- to-20 %, as would payments to Thoroughbred and harness tracks.

“They will close if we don’t make these changes,’’ Francis said.

The Paterson advisor said all the industry stakeholders have an “an interest in making sure that (NYCOTB’s) long-term future is preserved.’’

“So, it’s really an investment in their future. There’ll be a little less money today to have a lot more money tomorrow,’’ he said. Francis added that NYCOTB now pays out about $120 million annually in various distribution amounts; that would be cut about 20% to help New York City OTB close a projected $20 million deficit in the coming year.

The revenue shift appears to have some support in the Legislature. “We can go along with a plan that eliminates some of the payments,’’ said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Earlier, in an appearance before a New York City union, whose members include NYCOTB workers, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said a fix to the OTB’s financial problems is coming. “We are going to do everything and anything to make sure that (NYCOTB) continues,’’ said Bruno, a close political ally of Bloomberg.