“It will be a real blow to the racing industry....I believe it’s important that we resolve this issue.” [Bloodhorse.com]And with that, we hear the first words of any kind from Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo regarding our favorite game. Even in his detailed 252-page manifesto released in conjunction with his official entry into the race, the topic did not get a single mention, as I reported at the time. But the governor-to-be apparently does at least seem to know that the industry exists. Surely he's happy that he apparently won't have to deal with the situation one way or another.
Cuomo's comment comes of course in reaction to the Senate's failure to take up the bill (which was passed on Tuesday by the Assembly), and the subsequent announcement by NYC OTB that it will close after Friday.
"Without the passage of the bill we run out of cash very quickly and we will have no alternative but to cease all operations," said Greg Rayburn, CEO of New York City OTB, in a memo to workers.Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran, whose protestations have become lamer and whinier as his party fades into the minority, tried to blame it on the governor, claiming that Paterson "did not provide lawmakers with enough information to act in a timely fashion." Of course, the fundamentals of the plan have been common knowledge for some time, and the Senate resisted Paterson's calls for a special session earlier in the month. So Shafran, who also blamed the outgoing governor for the inaction on the deficit, is full of it, again. (His comments regarding the Senate Democrats' financial woes are particularly amusing.)
Rayburn said he still hopes the Senate will pass the measure, "but at the same time we have to plan for the worst." [NY Post]
Don't get me wrong; I shed no tears for NYC OTB, which cannibalized the local sport, and is responsible in a significant way for the state of the industry here, all while creating cushy patronage jobs for people who ran the operation into the ground. I have an extremely limited and tepid amount of nostalgia for nights spent in the Forest Hills OTB parlor on Queens Blvd. But the shame is that surely its well-deserved demise could have been orchestrated in a more thoughtful, deliberate, and constructive manner, and with the goal of consolidating the industry state-wide. Whatsmore, I just don't see anyone whatsoever who will be better off come Saturday if the closure comes to pass.
It will be fascinating to see exactly what happens if the parlors indeed go dark. An interesting social experiment if nothing else. With their familiar neighborhood parlors closed down, what will the regulars do? Hop on the A train to the Big A? Retreat to the comfort of their homes, watch and wager on TV or online? Volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen? Attend a matinee performance of La Cage?