The legislature is gone for the weekend - nice working hours, eh? - and the deal to save NYC OTB is dead for now. Whether or not OTB will decide to once again delay its threatened closure until the politicians return to work on Monday is not known.
Assembly Racing Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow said he expects NYCOTB to shut down April 18. “Monday is the slowest betting day, so maybe they do something to show they can do it,” Pretlow said. “But we’ll be back (April 19).”Indeed. The proposed plan was fought tooth and nail by racetracks and horsemen (save NYRA, which supported the plan once it included a lifeline in the form of a $17 million advance against Big A slots revenue, more than enough to cover some $4 million in reduced OTB payments that would have resulted from the proposal) because of the reduction in payments from OTB which it would have entailed. That figure was reported to be 15%. Now they are facing a cut of 100%. And that doesn't make much sense. Sure, it sucks and it's totally unfair to expect tracks already receiving an unfairly low percentage of OTB's handle to swallow a further reduction in order to save the parasitic bookie operation. And the right thing to do is to merge not only NYC OTB, but all of the OTB's with the racetracks, starting with a transfer of the former's phone and internet wagering to NYRA. But, given that we know that's not going to happen, is 0% of the existing payments better than 85%? While, in the event of a closure, NYRA could pick up valuable business for its online wagering platform for which it receives its full on-track takeout, the harness tracks would be left completely out in the cold.
Pretlow said he was surprised at the level of opposition by the racing industry. NYCOTB handle about $1 billion each year.
“(The industry) opposed saving OTB, which I don’t know why, since they are their lifeblood,” Pretlow said. “I think eventually, they will see the handwriting.” [Bloodhorse.com]
And is it a better alternative for the union to have zero jobs instead of the reductions being proposed, whether or not it is to receive the severance and sweeteners that they apparently had been promised?
So, maybe I'm wrong, but I do still expect something to be done when the lawmakers return on Monday, at which time all of the sides will have had time to digest the ramifications of doing nothing; and that includes the lawmakers themselves, which will have to deal with a bankrupt NYRA as well as the other tracks banging on their doors for help.
- Here's an excerpt from the latest of the totally ignorant newspaper editorials on the subject that I've seen, from today's Daily News:
After draining OTB of millions to prop up racing, after throwing it into bankruptcy court, after being warned that closure was coming, after promising to come up with a rescue plan, the bums left town yesterday without doing a thing.In fact, OTB exists to "prop up" racing, and it is in fact OTB which has drained the sport to which it owes its existence, not the other way around. But hell, I certainly don't have to tell you guys that. Why don't we all go to the News' editorial and leave comments telling them how totally clueless they are about the subject, and to leave the editorializing to Jerry Bossert instead.
UPDATE: Interesting, Capitol Confidential has a draft of the proposed bailout plan, and the 15% reduction on payments was to apply only to out-of-state simulcast revenue, and would only amount to $1 million in total for the year. The draft also contains a provision which would have - finally! - allowed the OTB's to stream live broadcasts of the races. That would have also - finally! - freed up NYRA to do the same, which no doubt would have been a boost to their bottom line. It also would have allowed - permanently - "joint ventures between all the OTB's, tracks and NYRA for the purpose of negotiation, consolidation, mergers, acquisitions or consolidations." And, of course, the $17 million loan against future slots monies that would have, according to Charlie Hayward, would have kept its cash flow positive until the first quarter of 2011. So, I'm looking at this and wondering what exactly was the problem....and thinking that it will eventually get done.