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Thoroughbred racing in New York is in turmoil and the is only getting more chaotic by the day. Last week, the state legislature and Governor Elliott Spitzer announced a plan to extend the New York Racing Association's exclusive franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga racetracks for an additional 25 years, together with a $105 million subsidy from the state and forgiving $125 million in debt owed by NYRA to the state.
This week, in response to ongoing financial issues which were not addressed in the NYRA bailout, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the New York City Off Track Betting Corporation Board to shut down  the off track betting parlors in New York City in an effort to staunch the flow of red ink flowing from OTC. Last night, the New York City OTC Board did just that, agreeing to shut down shops immediately and to close every New York City outlet by June 15, laying off 1500 employees in the process, not to mention provoking yet another fight between the Mayor and AlbanyNeedless to say, the state does not believe that the New York City OTC Board has the authority to take this action without consulting with it first.
Now, I don't pretend to understand the ins and outs of the New York off track betting law, nor the corporate structure of the Off Track Corporation. However, I presume that the Mayor, astute businessman that he is, has consulted with competent legal counsel before urging the Board to take this action and actively promoting this fight. It's reasonable to assume that the same legal counsel believes that the NYCOTB is on solid legal ground.
All that aside, the actual shut down would be a devastating blow to racing as NYC offtrack betting takes in $1 Billion annually and accounts for 40% of the total New York take. That ripples throughout the national racing scene as the OTB handle includes racing from tracks throughout North America and that $1 Billion is shared with horsemen across the continent. Hopefully, this game of chicken will be settled well before the June 15 deadline and the OTB shops will remain open. It will be a dark day indeed for racing acroos the continent if Mayor Mike gets his way and OTB is actually shut down.