OTB saved by Paterson in 11th hour

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Workers at Queens' 18 Off-Track Betting sites breathed a collective sigh of relief Friday after Gov. David Paterson said the state would take over the financially strapped corporation from the city.

Part of the agreement, the governor said, involves relocating OTB's central office from 42nd Street in Manhattan to the Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park — a move he said would save $5 million.

"You don't have to wonder about your job anymore," Paterson told the employees during a televised address Friday from his Manhattan office. "You can come to work Saturday, Sunday and Monday. ...The Off-Track Betting corporation will continue."

The state would also pay OTB's expenses and contractual obligations, Paterson said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who did not appear at the announcement, said the city did not have the wherewithal to support OTB and warned that the corporation would have to fold this month because it was not turning a profit.

Citing private conversations, the New York Post quoted Paterson Monday as saying the mayor had a temper reminiscent of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and that Bloomberg was untrustworthy.

But Paterson said the quotes given to the Post were inaccurate and the mayor called the governor "a friend."

The governor said a tentative agreement was reached Friday that would have the state control OTB in the city. He said the state takeover is expected to occur in the next three months.

"This will relieve the city from what was an untenable situation," he said. "The state had options that the city didn't. The city was stuck here."

About $1.1 billion of the $2.6 billion spent on horse racing wagers in the state comes from OTB sites, according to Paterson.

Eileen Roberts, a representative of DC 37 — the union that represents OTB employees — who joined Paterson at the announcement, applauded the agreement.

"If OTB would have closed, everybody would have lost," she said.

There are 18 OTB sites in Queens, including a parlor inside Blackstone Restaurant & Pub in Astoria. That location, which opened in 1997, was the first OTB site to be housed in a restaurant.

The corporation was formed in 1970 to counter the influence of organized crime on gambling in the city.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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