New York City Off Track Betting (NYC OTB) is no more, folks. In fact, it’s been “no more” since December of last year. And as of last week, the NYC OTB website (www.nycotb.com) has been taken offline.
Despite former Governor David Patterson’s announcement that an agreement had been reached with the NYC OTB Creditor’s Committee – in effect, keeping the longstanding racing parlor from going bankrupt – the sway, or perhaps, lack of action by the New York Senate has put an end to the NYC OTB for the time being.
The crutch of the matter is that the NYC OTB owes the New York Racing Association (NYRA) $95 million in unpaid debts, which OTB executives say was caused by an antiquated fiscal revenue sharing formula imposed by State laws. The State, however, begs to differ, putting the blame on NYC OTB management.
As part of Governor Patterson’s rescue package, NYC OBT was to be forgiven $65 million of its debt under the conditions that certain legislative changes would be adopted (namely, provisions to help generate revenue by means of video lottery terminals). However, the Senate rejected said legislation, thus leaving no other alternative but to shut down the NYC OTB.
Understandably, there has been an uproar about the closing. The NYC OBT handled approximately 25% of all horse racing bets in New York State – the lack of which will certainly have economic repercussions.
According to the New York Thoroughbred Breeders (NYTB), breeding farms in approximately 50 countries are now at risk of shutting down. Considering the NYC OTB provided 36% of the revenue going to the New York breeding fund, the shutdown will likely result in fewer horses, and thus, less revenue. Furthermore, closing the NYC OTB will cost the State (facing a $10 billion deficit) $20 million with $600 million in liabilities.
Others, like New York Racing Association President, Charles Hayward, say the closing of the NYC OTB ushers in a great opportunity to reform the New York horse racing industry; Specifically, to merge the OTB’s five regional corporations and create a track-owned conglomerate of off-track betting destinations.
A recent Assembly racing committee hearing successfully served as a forum for all vested parties to express their ideas, while at the current time, a potential rescue plan is still floating around Albany. Trade unions and local racetrack interests are working hard to get the word out to State Senators and local Representatives that the permanent closure of the NYC OTB could prove disastrous to local economies and the New York horse racing industry at large. And the longer it remains shut down, the less likely the NYC OTB will ever open its doors again.