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OTB Board Adopts Shutdown Plan For Friday

By DNAinfo Staff on December 1, 2010 2:15pm  | Updated on December 1, 2010 6:29pm

By Olivia Scheck and Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producers

MIDTOWN — The city’s Off-Track Betting Corporation adopted a plan to shutter its doors on Friday unless the state legislature comes up with more cash to keep it afloat.

The OTB board passed the resolution unanimously at an emergency board meeting at its New York City headquarters Wednesday afternoon.

Before the meeting, officials from NYC OTB sent out an email to the more than 1,000 staff members warning that Dec. 4 would be the last day that their 54 locations in the city would operate. They had been hoping for a bailout from Albany, but the Senate didn't take up the OTB bill before it adjourned for the holidays, officals said.

"The senate has adjourned their extraordinary session without putting our bill up for a vote," NYC OTB President and CEO Greg Rayburn wrote in an e-mail obtained by DNAinfo. "Without the passage of the bill we run out of cash very quickly and we will have no alternative but to cease all operations."

NYC OTB is currently buried under $228 million in debt, and has been yanked back from the brink of closure several times, including in April when Gov. David Paterson struck a deal with creditors to keep OTB's doors open. The Assembly passed the bill during its emergency session on Tuesday, but it may not arrive in time because the Senate adjourned without voting on it, according to OTB officials.

Senate officials defended their delayed vote, saying the fate of the betting house can't be a rush job.

"With thousands of jobs and millions of taxpayer dollars at stake, a potential bailout for the New York City Off Track Betting Corporation is not a decision that government should rush," said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Majority Conference.

Some OTB regulars said they’d heard so many threats of closure, they thought the massive betting agency was crying wolf.

"We ain't closing down," assured Calvin Bowers, 58, an OTB custodian, as he took a break from sweeping.

"This is a cash cow," he said. "They always pull a rabbit out of the hat."

Chelsea's John Miller, 40, agreed.

"They keep saying that," he said, but "they never do."

However, not everyone would be sorry to see OTB close.

IT consultant Jack Regan, 50, said he's lost over $500,000 over the course of 17 years gambling at OTBs near the South Street Seaport and in Midtown.

“It’s pathetic," Regan said. "None of these guys need to be in there. ... They should tear them down."

If the state aid falls through, the OTB will likely go without a helping hand from the city, given the public comments from gambling opponent Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"I’ve never thought we should be in the gambling business," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said previously.