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OTB funding issues could close down boro bet sites

The Jan. 16 report appeared before a Monday announcement by Gov. Eliot Spitzer saying the state has given the New York Racing Association another three-week extension to operate the state's race tracks, including Aqueduct Race Track in Ozone Park.An OTB official said the corporation was referring comment on the OTB shutdown, which was reported in the New York Times last week, to its City Hall liaison. The liaison could not be reached for comment on the plan.Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested back in November that OTB draft a proposal to shut down, when he said the city would not increase funding to the corporation because of "the difficult economic times facing the city."More than $1 billion in wagers are handled by OTB and it generates $125 million in profits, according to Bloomberg, although he said state law forces the corporation to give back a significant chunk of its profits to the racing industry.He said last year that OTB paid $98 million to the racing industry, with $54 million of those funds going to NYRA."Years of state legislative schemes that favored racing interests over NYC OTB, at the expense of essential city services, have forced the city into a financially untenable situation in which city taxpayers are, in effect, asked to subsidize the racing industry," the mayor said.There was speculation that the plan was a bargaining ploy to amend the payments OTB makes to the racing industry.Meanwhile, the governor's agreement with NYRA on a new extension to operate the state's tracks enables the association to hold horseracing at Aqueduct through Feb. 13. Aqueduct is the only racetrack out of three in the state that runs races in the winter. Aqueduct in Queens and Saratoga close down.The state had originally set a Dec. 31 deadline to decide who would run the state's tracks. NYRA's lease expired at the end of the year but no agreement came. Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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