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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

OTB Comes Up Short

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, 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..
“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."
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).


Figless said...

Clearly the REP's are at fault here, in what is clearly a political patronage play, so much for governing as you aptly point out. This is when we miss Joe Bruno.

What is unique is the liberal media spitting out their "bailout" spin verbatim in EVERY report, radio and TV.

Unusual bedfellows.

Anonymous said...

This is great news.

Wallyhorse said...

Something does need to be done no matter what:

While short-term it will hurt for sure, it at least is occurring in December, which is a time a lot of people take off from playing horses anyway, so the real impact may not come for a while.

The current OTB system is obsolete and came about because those on the NYRA board in 1968-'69 turned down the chance to run OTB themselves, most likely out of concern that the companies many of them ran would be facing consequences from many anti-gambling fronts, especially then as in a lot of places, gambling didn't have the acceptance it does today, leading to what we have had since. Times have changed of course since then, and if anything good comes out of this, perhaps OTB in New York can be run in a much more efficient manner like those in other parts of the country that learned from New York's mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Alan, two things:

1. Sorry about the beating the Pats laid on the Jets.

2. Have you read Lord Of Misrule yet? It's a great read. Would be interested in your thoughts.


Alan Mann said...

>>1. Sorry about the beating the Pats laid on the Jets.

LOL, no you're not!

>>2. Have you read Lord Of Misrule yet? It's a great read. Would be interested in your thoughts.

It's on my Xmas list.

jk said...

RIP NYC OTB. The Big M is fading fast. We are watching the NYC racing industry disintegrate before our eyes.

I enjoyed NYRA's press release yesterday regarding the regional OTB's request for a cut in payments made to NYRA. If NYRA goes down so do the regional OTB's. End of story.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here.

rashid1891 said...

good story ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Wallyhorse said...

The demise of Off-Track Betting (at least as we have known it) in New York in the short term is going to have some serious detriments, given the amount of handle that is wagered at OTB (though if NYRA can get one-third of that handle on-track and/or through NYRA Rewards, then it won't hurt nearly as much since NYRA would not have to share as much outside of the state's cut). That said, if anything good comes out of the OTB shutdown (besides some of the arcane laws that forbid live streaming and so forth in New York State finally being dropped so NYRA and other in-state tracks can more fairly compete with out-of-state wagering services), perhaps it will be that NYRA will finally be able to really reduce winter dates:

The days of having to run 95 days between December 1 and April 1 (or April 30) is very much outdated, and in an era of horse shortages needs to change. Monmouth Park proved people want to bet big fields, and with that in mind, if NYRA needs to run in the winter to keep horsemen who can't afford to ship elsewhere and come back in the spring in the mix, this is the kind of schedule I'd be looking at for the winter of 2011-'12:

December 2011 (up to the Christmas break): Racing stays on the main track up to the Christmas break (in a change from recent seasons), but with racing cut to four days a week, Thursday through Sunday. First post would be 1:00 PM on Thursdays and Fridays as part of an overall change to where even after racing returns to Aqueduct in late October/early November, first post remains at 1:00 PM on weekdays with cards cut from nine races to eight during the week. Weekends would be 10 races with first post at Noon. December 18 would be the last day of racing before the Christmas break.

After the Christmas Break into January 2012: There would be eight consecutive days of racing from December 26, 2011-January 2, 2012. All cards during this period would be 10 race programs with first post at Noon daily. After January 2, racing would be on Saturdays and Sundays ONLY for the rest of January, plus racing on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 16). These would also be 10 race programs with first post at Noon until it stays light out late enough to add an 11th race to such programs. Mondays would be held as a reserve day if racing has to be canceled on Saturday or Sunday (except Monday 1/16 since there would be racing that day, with Tuesday 1/17 the reserve day that weekend) and such canceled card carried over in its entirety under such circumstance.

February and March 2012: Racing is four days a week on a Thursday-Sunday basis, plus Monday, February 20 (Presidents Day). First post throughout would be 1:00 PM on weekdays and Noon on weekends. There would be eight races on weekday programs throughout and 11 race programs on weekends through Monday 2/20, the lone exception to that being nine races on Super Bowl Sunday (2/6/'12). The last weekend in February and first two weekends in March would have 12 race programs on Saturdays and Sundays, with the final two Saturdays then going to 13 races while Sundays remain at 12 races. The four-day race week (eight Thursdays/Fridays, 1:00 PM first post and then a noon post with 13 on Saturdays and 12 on Sundays) could then continue through the end of the Aqueduct main track season in April.

Obviously, the focus on racing in this version would be on weekends with many more races on Saturdays and Sundays as opposed to during the week, as Monmouth showed how successful that can be this past summer.

Figless said...

I would just race two days per week, Saturday and Sunday, plus Holidays during January and February, with as many races crowded in as possible. A post time of 1130 is not unreasonable.

Obviously the purses would be increased accordingly which hopefully would attract a better quality.

Most importantly I would run numerous buses from everywhere in striking distance on weekends.

El Angelo said...

Leo Tolstoy found Wallyhorse's post to be long-winded

Wallyhorse said...


You have to consider the west coast, which is why I said Noon for the opener, which still would have NYRA most weekend days being the first track out of the box. As also noted, I would only be doing weekends only during January, when we probably have the fewest horses available, especially following a stretch right after Christmas where there would be 80 races in eight days.

Otherwise, I think a four-day week, limiting weekday cards to eight races and loading up weekends looks best.

It's actually very similar to what I would be doing if we cut Saratoga to a five-day, Thursday-Monday week down the road: 3:00 PM post/eight races on Thursdays (nine races opening day), 3:00 PM post/nine races on Fridays (2:30 the final two Fridays) and a 12:30 PM post Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays with 13 races on Saturdays (15 races, including the New York Turf Writers Cup on Travers Day with an 11:00 AM first post), 12 on Sundays and nine (including the weekly jump race) on Mondays (except closing day, which would be a 13-race card with a Noon first post).