Compromise Urged on New York City OTB

Compromise Urged on New York City OTB
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With the clock ticking on the closure of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp., officials from the Bloomberg administration are stepping up their calls for industry stakeholders to compromise on a bill or face the loss of more than $100 million in OTB distributions.

NYCOTB is backing the outlines of a plan by Gov. David Paterson to change the way in which its revenue is distributed to various entities, including the state, the New York Racing Association, and a Thoroughbred breeding fund. For NYRA, it is estimated the change will cost it $12 million in lost OTB revenue.

But a top aide to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is warning NYRA and the others have a lot more at stake if NYCOTB closes as the mayor is planning to do in two weeks.

“Everybody’s going to have to compromise, and I think people are very focused on what’s going on in somebody else’s pocket as opposed to what’s in theirs,’’ said Robert Lieber, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding.

Lieber warned there is $100 million in OTB revenue sharing that is “going to vanish’’ in two weeks. “And whether someone has to give a couple million here or a couple million there because they’re going from gross to net versus people losing it all, people don’t seem focused on that,’’ he said.

The plan calls for changing the way OTB revenue is distributed; it would be based on a percentage of the OTB’s net operating profit as opposed to its gross revenue or handle.

Bloomberg has warned he is not bluffing in his threat to shutter NYCOTB, and said the city will no longer subsidize the money-losing betting corporation.

“What is the defensible position?’’ Lieber said at the Capitol June 3. “What is the public policy that is served by taking taxpayer dollars and supporting a public bookie and taking it away from police officers, teachers, and others? I don’t think there’s a defensible position to do this, and the mayor won’t do it. This is not a bluff.”

When asked about NYRA’s claims that the $12-million loss will affect its bid to get out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Lieber said: “What do you think the impact on NYRA will be if they get no distributions?’’

The deputy mayor had a single message for NYRA. “You will lose it all if you don’t agree to do it, and you’ve got two weeks,” he said. “We’ve got less than two weeks because it’s gone in two weeks. The surprise is that there’s not more urgency.”

NYCOTB officials May 30 sent layoff notices to its 1,200 employees.

The New York Thoroughbred Breeders is also opposing the NYCOTB-backed plan, arguing it will cut $1.2 million in annual breeding fund payments.

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