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Queens’ 19 Off-Track Betting Corp. locations are expected to close after the state Senate voted down a bill Tuesday that would have saved OTB sites from being shuttered, according to OTB’s chairman.
State senators rejected 29-21 the legislation crafted by Gov. David Paterson and passed by the state Assembly last week that would have forgiven the $67 million the bankrupt city OTB owes to creditors, including the New York Racing Association, which conducts operations at Aqueduct Race Track. In exchange, NYRA sites would have been permitted to start streaming horse races live on the Internet.
To pass, the bill would have needed three more votes for a total of 32 votes. Three Democrats were missing during the vote, including state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), whose district includes Aqueduct and who was absent because he was in China for a high-speed rail conference. State Sens. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) and Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) were also not at the vote.
OTB Chairman Larry Schwartz said before the vote that if the legislation was rejected, the group would be forced to close all their sites due to bankruptcy. There are 19 OTB sites in Queens, including ones in Jamaica, Forest Hills, Woodside, Flushing, Astoria and Little Neck.
The city OTB had voted Friday to extend its operations until midnight Tuesday. It had planned to close Friday but said it would wait to shutter its site pending the Senate action.
“Closing NYC OTB is a complicated and costly prospect, with an immediate cost of as much as $20 million to state taxpayers as well as a fiscal impact on the counties of Nassau and Saratoga and the city of Yonkers,” Schwartz said prior to the vote. “Closure would also mean the immediate loss of jobs statewide and a substantial loss of revenue to the racing industry and the state.”
Paterson backed Schwartz’s estimate that the state could lose $20 million if OTB closed.
“Because such costs far exceeded the liabilities of rent and payments to the workforce, the board concluded that it would give the Senate one last chance to pass a restructuring plan,” Paterson said of the OTB board. “While the board extended this time, it has publicly pledged that this will be the last opportunity for reorganization before the corporation will close down.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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