State Republicans eye plan to rescue New York City OTB

(AP) - New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. maynot be dead yet. A few potential rescue plans for the 40-year-old bookmakingoperation are floating around Albany after the state Senate failedto approve a plan a week ago. And while rhetoric still runs high,neither the governor's office, New York City OTB nor the Senate'sDemocrats and Republicans will say a deal is impossible. Nearly 1,000 workers represented by the politically powerfulDistrict Council 37 union of the American Federation of State,County and Municipal Employees are idled and hoping for a rescueforced by the city's largest public employee union. Last week, the Senate couldn't agree on the reorganization planthat was to save New York City OTB from bankruptcy. Now OTB's boardscoffs at the latest proposals as an attempt to shift politicalblame. "A week ago they had the opportunity to do the right thing,"said Lawrence Schwartz, chairman of the city OTB and chief of staffto Gov. David Paterson, who sought to save OTB. "I think the timehas passed us by and I am just very skeptical that legislators willput partisan politics aside and stop using New York City OTB,holding it hostage, to get other things done." Paterson's bill would have allowed the city OTB to reorganizewith fewer workers, fewer parlors and more modern methods tocollect bets more efficiently. It would not have addressed similarhard times faced by upstate and Long Island OTBs, which also haveseen their customers drawn to casinos and other gambling options. District Council 37 Political Action Director Wanda Williamssaid the union, through its lobbying efforts, has persuaded enoughsenators to pass Paterson's bill, but Senate Republican leader DeanSkelos won't allow it to return to the floor. "This union continues to work on finding a resolution that willsave OTB, our members jobs and the millions in revenue that thestate stands to loose," Williams said. A Skelos spokesman said the bill, which was defeated and wouldhave to be reintroduced before another vote could be taken, is nolonger viable, and the loss of a week's revenue makes elements ofthe rescue plan obsolete. One of the latest proposals is by Republican Sen. Martin Goldenof Brooklyn. His plan released Tuesday would reopen 30 to 50 of thecity's most profitable betting parlors. Golden would have upstateand Long Island OTBs work with the state and the New York RacingAssociation to run the OTBs. Golden's rescue of the city OTBs, which are in Democraticlegislative districts, would benefit OTBs around the state, most ofwhich are located in districts represented by Republican senators. But OTB's doors have been closed since Dec. 7. City bettors havebeen closing their online and phone accounts that brought in about$140 million of the more than $750 million bet each year, or about45 percent of off-track betting statewide. That betting apparentlyis headed to illegal bookmakers, regional OTBs that can now handlecity bets more easily, and foreign-based Internet bookmakers. The loss of those accounts leaves little value or incentive forsome other entity - NYRA or the state or other OTBs - to reopen thecity betting parlors. OTB shutdown may cost BX jobsOTB says it will shut down Friday

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