04/22/2010 11:00PM

New York OTB fires 35 workers


New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation fired 35 non-union employees on Thursday and Friday, a move that will save the bankrupt company $2 million a year, the company's chairman said in a letter sent to state regulators.

Sandy Frucher, who was appointed chairman of New York City OTB last year, said in the letter that the firings were "just the first of many steps" that the company plans to take as it reorganizes under the protection of Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The letter, which was addressed to New York State Racing and Wagering Board chairman John Sabini, described the employees as having "management" positions.

"While regrettable, this action is a necessary step to operate our business more efficiently and effectively as we look toward a new future," Frucher wrote.

According to a spokesperson for OTB, Benjamin Branham, the positions eliminated included 12 administrative managers, three executive directors, four senior directors, one associate director, three directors, and three special assistants. The positions were all "associated with headquarters and operations," Branham said.

New York City OTB has 1,300 employees, most of them represented by unions. Several weeks ago, officials of the company informed employees that all of the company's parlors and its account-wagering operation would be shut down unless it received assistance from the state legislature, but the company abruptly reversed tack last weekend and said that it would stay open for at least one year while it attempts to build consensus for a reorganization plan that will likely call for reduced payments to the harness and Thoroughbred racing industries.

According to Frucher, New York City OTB plans to fire approximately half of its employees and shutter two-thirds of its parlors as part of its reorganization. Because the majority of its employees are unionized, the company is seeking legislation that would enable it to offer early retirement packages to employees as a concession to the union.

"Once this legislation is passed we expect to work with our union partners to implement further reductions," the letter stated.