NYC OTB Chairman Sandy Frucher, appearing at Friday's public hearing conducted by members of the state Assembly and Senate in Lower Manhattan, didn't take long to get to the yuks when, early on in his testimony, he declared that OTB had "succeeded" at its objective "To operate in a manner compatible with the well-being of the New York horse racing industry.."
Oh, really? And just exactly how has it achieved that? Yonkers Raceway VP and GM Robert Galtiero helped to fill us in on that in his testimony when he noted:
"Giving OTB our product, decimating our attendance base, destroying our revenue stream, requiring the tracks to seek relief from our heavy tax burden and, in a short time, looking for ways to keep OTB afloat."That seems to sum the matter up pretty succinctly. Charlie Hayward noted that while NYRA "puts on the best racing in the country year round and gets $7.4 million from NYC OTB on its races, NYC OTB turns on the lights, turns on the TV sets, opens the pari-mutuel windows," and receives $39.4 million. I'd like to hear Mr. Frucher elaborate on just how that is compatible with the well-being of the sport.
Funny that the abovementioned portion of Galterio's testimony did not stop NYC OTB's PR representative, David Vermillion of Edelman, from sending out an email entitled Yonkers Raceway Testimony Supports NYC OTB Plan. A couple of points here before I move on: How is it that an operation which has filed for bankruptcy and is threatening to lay off "over a thousand workers" in a few weeks can find the money to hire a fancy public relations outfit?? Seriously, there oughta be a law! And secondly (and rather hilariously in my view), Vermillion and Edelman also once handled PR for Empire Racing. This guy is obviously not very selective about the quality or ethics of his clients; at least as far as I'm concerned.
Indeed, Galtiero did state that Yonkers Raceway wants OTB's bankruptcy plan, which includes a new formula which would slash, by approximately 50 percent over the first two years, the already meager payments it would make to the industry, to succeed (this in contrast to Hayward, who labeled it "preposterous.") Of course, unlike NYRA, Yonkers has slots and can therefore afford to take a short-term hit in the hope of profiting down the road from a revitalized OTB. Recession be damned; business at the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway incredibly continues to thrive; it's virtually a straight line upward since it opened its doors in October of 2006, check it out (pdf document). In fact, the week ended Jan 2 was easily the biggest week in its history, with a net win of nearly $12.5 million. Figure they retain roughly a third of that, and I'd imagine that any change in Yonkers' share of the OTB revenues from its harness racing operation is almost immaterial by comparison.
That's indeed not the case for NYRA, whose financial woes are well-documented, or the horsemen. NY Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Jeff Cannizzo noted:
““This accounting trick will dramatically reduce revenues to those who are at the heart and soul of Thoroughbred racing, remove OTB accountability, and create a death spiral for an industry that employs tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” [Thoroughbred Times]