Latest Plan: VLTs for New York City OTB Parlors

New York City off-track betting parlors would be permitted to install up to 4,500 video lottery terminals under a proposal made May 13 by Gov. George Pataki.

The plan comes as Pataki is locking horns with the legislature over a budget bill, including a bailout piece for cash-starved New York City. The legislative budget, which is on Pataki's desk and must either be accepted or rejected by May 14, doesn't include the provisions for New York City Off-Track Betting Corp.

It is unclear what impact Pataki's latest plan will have on the budget stalemate, especially since lawmakers have shown no inclination to embrace Pataki's budget ideas so far.

The Pataki VLT plan is part of a broader aid package for New York City. Of all the revenue-raisers, though, VLTs would bring the most--$210 million this year and $395 million by next year--to New York City, the governor estimated.

The governor said the OTB plan makes sense because the devices are already coming to Aqueduct and Yonkers Raceway under the legislative budget. Aqueduct is in line to get 4,500 machines, and Yonkers is looking at 5,000 VLTs.

Moreover, Pataki said upward of 40% of Atlantic City casino players come from New York City. He said the city already feels the impact of social ills from such bettors going to Atlantic City "yet gets no benefit."

The Pataki plan would permit the devices at three OTB teletheaters, though they do not have to be placed at NYCOTB's existing teletheater sites. His proposal doesn't permit the devices in OTB parlors outside of New York City.

The OTB plan was on the table when Pataki and lawmakers were negotiating over the state budget. But the OTB plan, opposed by racetracks, was rejected by the legislature, in part because Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, opposes casino-like gambling in New York City.

Soon after Pataki unveiled his New York City aid proposal, it was quickly categorized by Silver as "a waste of time." Silver said he talked with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg May 13.

"Every conversation I've had with the mayor, he has said he believes we should not authorize VLTs for the city of New York," Silver said.