Albany, NY —
The New York State Senate is returning to the Capitol for another special session on Tuesday. They are hoping to approve a bill to bail out New York City’s bankrupt Off-Track Betting Corporation, but some senators say the rest of the state needs to be included as well.
New York City’s OTB has long been plagued by financial problems so severe that its board voted to close down operations at the end of business last Friday. The shutdown would have left nearly one thousand workers out of a job in a bad economy. The New York City OTB received one final reprieve, though, as the Chairman of the Board, Larry Schwartz, who is also Governor Paterson’s Chief of Staff, agreed to keep OTB open until the close of business on Tuesday because the State Senate has pledged to come back and approve a bailout bill.
The measure has already passed in the State Assembly. But Republicans in the Senate say they’d like to change the bill to include OTB’s in the rest of the state that they say are also economically shaky.
“Jobs across the state are at risk,” said Senate sponsor Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island.
Steven Acquario with the New York Association of Counties says acting just to help the New York City OTB could further harm the other OTBs on Long Island and upstate. Counties have a stake in the matter because they receive much needed revenues from gambling profits at OTBs.
“This will really change dramatically the relationship of the remaining Off-Track Betting corporations and pretty much put them at a significant disadvantage,” Acquario said.
The off-track betting centers also provide an important source of money to the horse racing industry, to help premier tracks at Saratoga, Belmont, and Aqueduct.
It’s relatively late in the year for new proposals in the legislature. The Assembly has said it won’t return until January, and the Senate is in transition between Democrats, who controlled the Senate for the past two years, and Republicans, who now appear on the verge of retaking the chamber’s majority with 32 seats. Some, like the Association of Counties, are pushing for a chapter amendment that the Assembly could pass in January. But the association’s Acquario admits that the new governor, Andrew Cuomo, who takes office in January, might not be bound to any promise made by current Governor David Paterson, who leaves at the end of the month.
Acquario says counties do not want the issue to become so fractured that nothing happens at all.
“There’s an awful lot at stake,” Acquario said.
Democrats, who will preside over the chamber for Tuesday’s session, may not have all of the 32 to approve the original bailout measure. At least one GOP senator, Roy McDonald who represents the Saratoga area, says he’ll reluctantly vote yes for the NYC OTB bailout.