12/03/2010 4:48PM

New York OTB board votes to delay shutdown


The board of directors of the bankrupt New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation voted on Friday afternoon to delay a plan to close until the state Senate convenes on Tuesday to consider a bill that would allow the company to implement a reorganization plan.

The vote temporarily averts a shutdown of all 54 betting locations in New York’s five boroughs and the company’s account-wagering operation that was scheduled to take effect at the close of business today. The board had voted on Wednesday to implement the shutdown plan unless the Senate passed legislation already approved by the General Assembly that would allow the company to cut the amount of money it pays to the state’s Thoroughbred and harness industries.

On Thursday, leaders of the Senate vowed to return on Tuesday to consider the legislation. The Senate refused to take up the bill during a special session on Monday, in large part because of political considerations surrounding the lame-duck session. The General Assembly passed the bill on Tuesday.

Although the bill would reduce the amount of money that New York City OTB annually sends to the racing industry by as much as $30 million in each of the first two years of the reorganization plan, the Thoroughbred industry has supported the proposal because of concerns over the long-term impact of the company’s shutdown.

“We support the legislation because it reorganizes OTB, keeps it going and gives a chance to restructure the business,” said NYRA president Charlie Hayward, shortly after the board voted to delay the shutdown plan. “To that extent, keep it open till Tuesday. The Senate says it’s going to come back, and I guess that’s a good thing. How that plays out politically, I have no idea.”

The danger facing New York City OTB during Tuesday’s session is that the Senate will adopt a bill that differs from the legislation already passed by the General Assembly. If the bills are different, then the Assembly will also have to reconvene to approve the new bill for it to go into effect, opening up the possibility of an entirely new round of political horse-trading.

The Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, but that majority will shift to the Republicans when elected officials are sworn in on Jan. 1. Also on that day, Gov. David Paterson will be replaced by governor-elect Andrew Cuomo. Both are Democrats.

- additional reporting by David Grening