09/01/2010 5:32PM

New York OTB drops early-retirement offer


New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation has scrapped an offer to allow its unionized employees to participate in a state-sponsored early-retirement program after failing to reach a deal with the union by a Tuesday deadline, the OTB’s top official said Tuesday.

The early-retirement incentives were part of a reorganization plan outlined last week by the bankrupt OTB company’s chief executive, Greg Rayburn. Under the plan, the state’s racetracks – which are New York City OTB’s largest creditors – would have taken over the OTB’s account-wagering business in exchange for the forgiveness of $65 million in debt. That proposal, called “Plan A” by Rayburn and supported by the racetracks, has now been scrapped, according to officials, because OTB would have had to tell the state that it wished its employees to participate in the program by the end of August.

“Plan A is effectively not an option anymore,” said Morgan Hook, a spokesman for Gov. David Paterson and New York City OTB, which is owned by the state. “You heard what Rayburn said last week. There was a deadline, and that deadline has passed.”

Under Plan A, unionized workers would have had to accept cuts in double-time pay for Sunday shifts and the loss of 400 jobs. New York City OTB currently has about 1,300 workers, and most are represented by two unions.

Last week, Rayburn said that the failure of the favored plan would shift consideration to an alternate reorganization plan in which New York City OTB would void all of its collective bargaining agreements to restructure its labor costs. Under that plan, the OTB would keep the account-wagering operation. If alternate plans fail to gain traction, then OTB will consider a liquidation of its assets, Rayburn said.

“Management of NYC OTB will continue to work with its unsecured creditors committee to determine the path forward,” Rayburn said in a statement.

The New York Racing Association, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, and its own account-wagering business, is one of OTB’s two principal creditors, along with Empire City at Yonkers Raceway, a harness track and casino. The association had $14 million in pre-petition debt, an amount that has ballooned to $20 million because of a decision by New York City OTB to delay statutory mandated payments on some wagers while under reorganization.