04/17/2008 11:00PM

New York lawmakers talking OTB relief


The New York State legislature has begun discussions with the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation on how to return more revenue to the company to avert a threatened shutdown of the offtrack company's branches in June, according to New York Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders.

The discussions will focus on both short-term and long-term changes to the OTB business model. In addition, Paterson has asked legislators to look at "long-term changes that can make all six of the state's OTB's more profitable and productive," according to a statement Paterson issued.

The state senate's majority leader, Joseph Bruno, has already floated a plan that would allow the New York City offtrack company to delay making $1 million in payments to the state. OTB revenue typically shoots up in the summer because of the popularity of signals from Saratoga in upstate New York and Del Mar in California.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that the city will not provide the company with operating funds unless the legislature changes the formulas that determine how it distributes and collects revenues.

Encouraged by Bloomberg, the company's board of directors voted in February to shut down on June 16.

Bloomberg and others have maintained that city taxpayers will have to provide the company with funds beginning in June, when the company has projected that it will run out of cash. That contention, however, disregards millions of dollars the company pays to the city as a surcharge on winning bets. The corporation treats the surcharge payments as an expense.

* The deadline for submitting proposals to operate a slot-machine casino at Aqueduct racetrack has been postponed until April 25, according to a spokesman for Gov. Paterson, Morgan Hook. The original deadline had been April 11, but the date was postponed "to give the legislature the opportunity to fully review" a memorandum of understanding that has been given to potential bidders, Hook said.

Slot machines were legalized at nine racetrack sites in New York in 2001, but the casino at Aqueduct has been delayed by political and economic issues surrounding the award of the franchise to operate Aqueduct. The New York Racing Association received a 25-year extension to its current franchise in February.