The failure of the NYC OTB bill in the State Senate was, in one sense, simply a numbers game. Specifically, the number of Democrats who were not present for the special session. By my count, compiled from various reports, there were five; including Senate President Malcolm Smith, who was tarnished in the AEG report; Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, tarnished in several scandals, and Senator Kevin Parker, who was being tarnished with a misdemeanor
assault criminal mischief conviction (related to an assault) in a Brooklyn courthouse. Man, what a crew.
Senator Ruben Diaz Sr, an anti-gambling zealot, was also reported missing; as was Senator Liz Kruger, who said she had agreed to be a reluctant 32nd and deciding vote and thus didn't show when she learned that the 31st vote wasn't there.
On the other hand though, you had the Republicans, playing the obstructionist card that they play so well. I know I've been harsh on the Senate Democrats, and for excellent reason; but the prospect of the GOP returning to power in the chamber (even if the new governor approves), is surely no more comforting. Their nondescript Majority Leader-to-be Dean Skelos offers absolutely nothing other than scripted soundbites and regurgitated party lines. He was so desperate to regain power that he scraped the scummy bottom of the Democratic barrel in last summer's ridiculous and sophomoric coup which brought the government to a virtual halt. So much for his interest in "governing."
According, again, to various published reports I read, there were anywhere from five to ten Republicans willing to support the Assembly bill as is; but only two bucked their leadership's edict of 'no;' one of them the representative from Saratoga, the other the lame duck Frank Padavan from Queens. As usual Skelos tried to portray the Democrats as the obstructors, playing the old Long-Island-and-upstate vs NYC card.
“We’ve tried to open up negotiations for the last few days to come up with a global solution to help all the OTBs throughout the state, and all we’ve received is, no.” [Capitol Confidential]The last time I looked though, NYC OTB was the only OTB in Chapter 9 bankruptcy facing closure within hours. Not to mention the only one which handles almost 40% of handle in the state. The GOP bill amounted to a handout to the regional OTB's which, unlike NYC, would not have had to make any concessions at all. (NYRA insisted that it would put them and, by extension, the rest of the state industry out of business.) Skelos can spin all he wants; it was his party which said no to jobs for the usual petty partisan reasons.
The Republicans don't believe that NYC OTB will actually close (and we can at least partially thank Sandy Frucher for that). It seems pretty clear though that the parlors will be shuttered on Wednesday. Tom Precious reports, on Bloodhorse.com, on what could be next:
If the OTB shuts down, it could also spark a new round of talks involving the sides in the coming days or weeks. A whole range of possibilities emerge if the OTB does close – from new efforts to reorganize how OTB wagering is conducted in New York to the NYCOTB having its more lucrative parts picked over by gambling interests.I certainly wouldn't be surprised if NYC OTB is resurrected at some point and in some form down the line. Maybe even in a format which actually benefits the industry instead of feeding off it.
As for the short-term consequences for the industry, we shall see. Nobody knows for sure how much of the business can be retained in-state. Officials such as the State Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini are sounding a dire alarm.
“A pebble hitting the water causes a ripple – but this is a boulder hitting the pond..Personally, I think that once the politicians of both stripes realize the scope of those potential consequences, we'll see those new talks about which Precious speculates above. I'm not ready to write the epitaph quite yet. I'll believe it when I see a Starbucks go up on at 107-40 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills (one of the parlors which will remain open for six days to cash tickets and refund account balances).
“Now, not only will NYC OTB workers lose their jobs, but every segment of the racing industry – from feed store owners to horsemen to those who board the equine athletes – will feel negative consequences. Every county in New York State will experience an adverse impact."