10/05/2011 2:39PM

New York OTB officials opposed to consolidation


Officials for New York’s five remaining off-track betting companies continued to resist calls for consolidation during a hearing before the state Senate’s Racing, Wagering, and Gaming Committee on Wednesday in Nassau County.

Senators Joseph Bonacic, the chairman of the committee, and Martin Golden, representing a district in Brooklyn, asked OTB and union officials about their opinions on consolidating operations, and the officials all said that the state legislature should first explore reform of the OTBs statutory obligations to the racing industry before considering consolidation. OTB officials and union officials have previously cited the statutory obligations for undermining the financial condition of OTB companies and the closure late last year of New York City Off Track Betting Corporation.

The hearing was called by Bonacic to “develop potential legislation to enhance the racing industry in New York state.” Witnesses included Christian Good, an official with Resorts World New York, which is set to open a casino at Aqueduct later this year; OTB officials representing both Nassau OTB and Capitol OTB; two officials representing union workers at New York City OTB; and Jim Gallagher, the executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

The hearing’s final witness, Charles Hayward, the chief executive of the New York Racing Association, did not appear before the committee. Hayward was in NYRA board meetings in Manhattan on Wednesday morning, and heavy traffic prevented him from getting to the hearing location in time, according to NYRA spokesperson Dan Silver. Hayward is expected to submit testimony to the committee by Oct. 10.

In resisting calls for consolidation, Joseph Cairo, the president of Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation, said that his OTB company is struggling because of “outdated and unbalanced” statutory requirements. Citing the threat that jobs at Nassau OTB could be lost because of the weakness of the company, Cairo said that the legislature should legalize slot machines at Nassau’s OTBs.

Granting OTB companies the authority to operate slot machines would likely be opposed by existing casino operators. Good, of Resorts World, said that the state should resist calls to expand gambling to additional locations. Resorts World currently has the only license to operate a casino within New York City limits.