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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Welcome to the Big A

Jerry Bossert reports in the News that around 50 people took advantage of the free bus service provided by NYRA to the Big A from several OTB locations around the city on Saturday. That of course is despite the fact that the parlors will remain open at least until the state legislature decides its fate this week. Makes you wonder why the idea of luring OTB customers to their tracks with free transportation and other incentives is just occurring to NYRA now. Given the fact that their business is worth three times on track than through OTB, it probably would have been a worthwhile endeavor before it reached the crisis stage. Maybe some OTB potatoes just need a little nudging to realize what they're missing....yes, even at the Big A, even in its current state.

In fact, the announced crowd of 6,532 seems squarely on the high side for a routine Saturday - only 200 less than that for the holiday fest card the week before, and far more than the 3,935 that made it out the week before that - so maybe some OTB customers had made anticipatory plans to make it out there all by themselves.

I was also told that NYRA had a better than usual day of signing up customers for its NYRA Rewards wagering platform, a crucial element for the industry to survive and thrive should NYC OTB shut down. The Racing Form included ads by out-of-state competitors trying to capitalize on the situation. Rumors About Your OTB Shutting Down? read one. Forced to switch where you play? read one by Xpress Bet (which stupidly failed to emphasize the fact that they have live streaming, way to go there, Frank).

The Senate could approve the bill passed by the Assembly on Tuesday, though many doubt that the necessary votes are there.

The Senate Democratic majority admits it is five to seven votes short of the 32 necessary to pass the bill and will need help from the Senate GOP, which has insisted on a more comprehensive solution. [NY Daily News]
That comprehensive solution comes in the form of a bill sponsored by Republican Senator Andrew Lanza that would, amongst other things, extend to the state's other OTB's the breaks in payment rates to the tracks and the state that the Assembly bill grants to NYC OTB. The GOP bill however does not require from the regionals the types of concessions faced by NYC OTB, which will cut its work force and give up its internet and phone wagering accounts.

Lanza's bill also contains a provision to prohibit the out-of-state ADW's from taking bets from New York state residents; as is the case in New Jersey. Such a law could actually prove to be a savior to the industry here should the OTB plan fail. However, long overdue and common sense action to allow NYRA to stream live races, take wagers on harness races, and end the restrictions on the hours it can operate, would go a long way towards helping them compete without such draconian action.

Obviously, NYRA and the other tracks would not be happy with the rest of the GOP bill and the further cuts in revenue it would bring. And nor would the Assembly, which would then be called upon to reconvene in order to consider that plan.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver this week made it clear he's not inclined to return to bring his members back to Albany to pass a different OTB rescue bill after his members passed one Tuesday. [NYDN]
- I also saw a timely ad from Empire City at Yonkers Raceway on the way to the track. A billboard overlooking Rockaway Blvd just a half mile away informed us that slots were "moments, not months away." An ad which will - presumably - have a relatively short life span indeed.