- The NY Times, reporting today on Mayor Bloomberg's intention to shut down NYC OTB, describes the parlors as dingy backdrops for decades of triumph and heartbreak. That's a rather elegant way of putting it. Nobody other than the relative handful of regulars would miss them if they were gone.
Since OTB parlors first started springing up in 1970, they have been a public space of sorts, often for under-employed, usually older men, to while away the hours.Not to me, I can assure you. Well, not too often. NYC OTB turned a profit of $125 million last year; but that was before it then had to send Albany $134 million - leaving it $9 million in the hole. [NY Post] It's reported that NYRA received $54 million, 5.4% of the estimated $1 billion handle. The corporation has, over the last few years, cut personnel and shuttered six money-losing parlors. But those efforts haven't resulted in any financial gains for the city.
"OTB parlors were the kind of places where -- how do you say it -- life's winners didn't exactly hang out there," said Luc Sante, author of "Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York."
Philip Lopate, a life-long New Yorker and author of "Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan," sees sociological forces at work.
"The city used to be working class," he said. "OTB parlors were just a kind of cultural expression of that working class. I never went into one, but I always kind of liked them. They seemed like a kind of home to certain people." [AM NY]
Between 1997 and 2001, the city received an average of $11 million from OTB. That number fell to just $1 million in 2002, and the city got no money in 2003 and 2005, the report said. [AP]So, the mayor is understandably set to pull the plug absent any financial and/or regulatory relief from Albany.
"Years of state legislative schemes that favored racing interests over NYCOTB, at the expense of essential city services, have forced the city into a financially untenable situation in which city taxpayers are, in effect, asked to subsidize the state racing industry," Bloomberg said. [Daily Racing Form]Well, Mike, the "racing interests" supply the product that OTB earns its revenue on, so what's so unnatural about that? The mayor is said to dislike gambling, which is kinda funny considering that he built his empire on a company which serves the biggest legal gambling operation in the world - the stock market.
But I think this is probably a positive development, since, as a source of revenue, it should serve to catch Albany's notice. And the timing is good, because it's likely to force the state to consider the OTB issue as it's hammering out a new franchise deal behind closed doors. Senator Bruno made consolidation of the OTB's into the racing operator a part of his proposal, and perhaps now it will get more than just lip service.
Speaking of lip service, Jessica posted Capital Play's anti-NYRA ad over at Railbird. The less said about it, the better. Jessica, who likes to use big words, calls it 'mendacious,' which, if it means 'bullshit,' pretty much sums it up. Just like any good political smear ad (Sheinkopf Communications, which produced it, is a consultant for Democratic candidates), it rehashes obsolete charges (the long-ago dismissed indictment), utilizes unflattering photographs in a heavy-handed manner, and bends the truth to its breaking point. To suggest that the NYRA bailout money would instead be devoted to education (complete with a shot of little innocents in their classroom) is....well, mendacious. Especially considering the amount of extra money Capital Play would be taking away from those kids due to the insidious takeout increases contained in their proposal. All I can say to their ad is