Officials Say No Gaming at New York OTB Parlors

Top government officials have shot down reports New York City Off Track Betting Corp. may be in line to get video lottery terminals for its betting parlors.

New York Gov. George Pataki said such a plan is not being discussed by negotiators trying to craft a new state budget. The New York Post reported April 5 VLTs were on the table as a revenue-producer that would bring the deficit-ridden city government more than $400 million in funds.

Pataki, following closed-door budget talks with legislative leaders April 6, said discussions are focusing on "not to expand but to implement" the 2001 law that permitted most racetracks in the state to offer VLTs. The program has stalled because tracks claim their split of revenue isn't sufficient.

A host of ideas are under discussion for the VLT program, including charging tracks an up-front licensing fee, having the state Lottery Division pay for more of the costs of the program, and taking away winnings now earmarked for bettors and sharing more with racetracks.

Sources said Senate Republicans have been behind the efforts to press for VLTs in New York City. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno told negotiators VLTs could be placed throughout the city, including South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan. Asked if the idea of VLTs in New York City is dead, Bruno said: "In my mind, nothing can be considered dead."

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the idea is being pushed "as a smokescreen"' by those trying to block efforts by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to restore a tax on commuters who work in the city. The VLT plan would raise about the same amount of revenue as the commuter tax.

"I believe the dollars are not there," Silver said of the VLT proposal. "We don't need casinos on the street corner."

Silver said the idea would generate more societal costs than it would revenue, and he said his position is the same for upstate off-track betting parlors. Some upstate OTB chiefs have been pressing to get VLTs on the premise they would have the devices up and running sooner than the racetracks.