ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Racing and Wagering Board took steps Wednesday to capture at least some of the revenue the state and its racing industry stand to lose to illegal bookmakers after the shutdown of New York City Off-Track Betting.
In an emergency meeting, the board approved streamlining the process for New York City OTB bettors to quickly sign up for Internet betting on state-regulated sites.
The board also authorized several betting entities to start the process immediately, which would dramatically reduce delays for bettors to sign up. They are the Nassau and Catskill off-track betting corporations, the Saratoga Springs and Yonkers harness tracks and the New York Racing Association, which operates the state’s thoroughbred tracks at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct.
More OTBs and tracks are expected to follow.
“This is a crisis situation and we’re trying to react because people will find their way to a barber shop or the corner bar (to bet), and that helps no one, not the racing industry or the state,” said state Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini.
Another fear is New York City OTB bettors will turn to “offshore” or foreign gambling operations that — unlike the state’s other OTBs and the New York Racing Association — don’t share millions of dollars in revenue with New York’s racing industry and governments, he said.
The new system will replace a registration process that can take days, quickly bringing former city OTB bettors to regional OTBs upstate and on Long Island or to the association.
Sabini said Gov. David Paterson, who had proposed the rescue plan for the city OTB that the Senate rejected Tuesday, authorized a speed-up of the rule-writing process that often takes state government months to complete.
“We would hope the betting public would stay with the licensed, regulated entities where they will get a fair shake,” Sabini said.
The city OTB has taken in 40 percent of New York’s horse racing handle. That’s nearly $1 billion a year in bets on harness and thoroughbred horse races. The Senate on Tuesday rejected the governor’s plan that would have allowed the city OTB to reorganize and avoid bankruptcy. Republican senators blocked the measure because it didn’t include help for the regional OTBs.
OTB board Chairman Lawrence Schwartz said New York City OTB provided $700 million to the state and the racing industry from 2004 to 2009.
“NYC OTB is shut down and there is no plan to reopen it,” Schwartz said Wednesday on WOR Radio in New York City. “You can’t switch it on and off. There have not been negotiations.
“The future is bleak if not finished,” Schwartz said.
Some city OTB parlors will be open for several days so customers can collect their winnings from past bets and close accounts.
Sabini said the racing board has been cautious about allowing quick, online registration to bet. But he said protections have improved to verify the age and identity of bettors. The city OTB hastened a plan already under consideration, he said.
“It is a major hole in the revenue stream for New York racing,” Sabini said. “However, I think it is an opportunity to hit the reset button here.”
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