12/08/2010 1:33PM

New York City OTB closes as state and NYRA try to sort through the fallout


As promised, New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. suspended all of its wagering operations after the state Senate on Tuesday failed to pass a bill that would have approved the corporation’s bankrupt reorganization plan.

"NYC OTB is shut down and there is no plan to reopen it," Larry Schwartz, NYC OTB chairman, said on a New York City radio show Wednesday morning. "This is not a light switch, you can’t flick it on and off."

NYC OTB will keep three branches open - one each in Brooklyn (West 8th Street), Queens (Forest Hills), and Manhattan (38th Street) - through Monday for customers to cash outstanding tickets and settle their accounts. No wagers will be accepted.

Meanwhile, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board was to hold an emergency meeting at noon on Wednesday to try and change the rules in order to streamline the process for customers to open phone and Internet wagering accounts at regulated New York facilities such as the New York Racing Association.

"We want to make sure the handle stays in New York at regulated, reliable entities that also contribute to the racing product," board Chairman John Sabini said. "We want to minimize the amount of people that go to offshore [account services] and the corner barbershops. We’re really concerned."

The New York Racing Association was also holding its monthly board meeting on Wednesday, at which NYC OTB’s closure would most likely be discussed.

In 2009, NYC OTB handled $695 million, of which $243 million was wagered on NYRA races. NYRA is the largest creditor of NYC OTB, being owed $27.5 million.

On Saturday, NYRA began sending busses to select NYC OTB locations in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan to bring customers to Aqueduct. Beginning Wednesday, NYRA added a Staten Island location to the mix.

Another topic that could be discussed is the possibility of seeking a cutback in race dates. Sabini said some entities - he wouldn’t name which ones - had contacted the board about reducing live racing dates moving forward. By state law, NYRA must card 95 race dates from Dec. 1 through April 1.

"We have had inquiries about [race dates] as recently as yesterday," Sabini said. "I’m not going to comment who made informal inquiries. There is a NYRA board meeting today. If anyone thinks this is not going to change the framework of the business they’re kidding themselves."