OTBs face fiscal turmoil

Sep 28, 2015

As competition for gambling dollars has intensified, the state's fiscal watchdog is warning that New York's Off-Track Betting corporations could face fiscal insolvency.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is urging lawmakers to review regulations on OTB in the wake of huge revenue declines. Since 2004, OTB wagering is down $1.2 billion, or 24 percent.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
Credit New York State

Brian Butry, a spokesman for the comptroller, told WBFO that while racetrack wagering is declining across the country, conditions in New York have been especially tough on the industry.

“Here in New York there’s certainly more competition for gambling dollars that we found. You have not only casino gambling in Western New York but in other parts of the state you have neighboring states with casinos, you have more places with racinos and VLT machines,” said Butry.

He says the increased competition within the state's gambling industry means fewer dollars to many municipalities.

“A lot of parlors have closed. To their credit, the OTBs have made a number of cost-saving measures, whether that be closing branches or laying off employees,” said Butry. “A number of the measures that would save these OTBs money have been addressed in previous years, and so the question remains as to what more can they do but also what can be done on kind of a higher level at the state to help these entities out?”

One answer to this question might involve revising revenue formulas so that OTB would share fewer dollars with racetracks.

State legislation that paved the way for off-track wagering was approved 45 years ago as a strategy for generating money for localities while reducing illegal betting.