While the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association recognizes the contribution made to purses by New York City OTB, we cannot and will not support a plan proposed by Mayor Bloomberg and presently being discussed to reduce funds paid by NYCOTB to NYRA and to purses.
OTB was created in part to support the racing industry, now it proposes to become a drain upon it. Why should NYRA, NYTHA and New York thoroughbred breeders have to underwrite NYCOTB’s operating inefficiencies, when it already has such an adverse effect on the overall racing industry in New York State? NYCOTB (even under the present legislative structure) does not pay its fair share for the pre-eminent simulcast racing signal in the world, and yet it seeks additional subsistence from an economically struggling industry.
In 1990, nearly 95% of all bets placed at NYCOTB were on New York races and in 2007 that figure was less than 30% as OTB imported more and more out of state races at the direct expense of in-state tracks and horsemen.
There are other options available to NYCOTB. These include, but are not limited to, increasing the surcharge on winning bets made through its branches or institute them on bets made via the telephone, retention of its uncashed pari-mutuel tickets, earmarking the capital reserve fund and other revenues sent to other governmental agencies to enhance its own profitability. In addition, explore the closure of unprofitable branches and reduce duplicative expenses, such as accounting procedures, simulcasting, tote and wagering platform costs by merging those operations with other in-state racing entities.
Mayor Bloomberg has made it abundantly clear that he has no real interest in the overall welfare and future of NYCOTB or the thoroughbred racing industry. It would be unwise to allow an entity (NYCOTB), so vital to the racing industry to remain in the hands of such disinterested leadership. Whatever solution the Governor and the Legislature finds for NYCOTB’s immediate problems, it must include a binding commitment to either a merger with the NYRA or have NYRA take it over completely.
There is an opportunity here to follow Mayor Bloomberg’s lead and correct an error that has haunted the thoroughbred industry for decades. NYCOTB must be moved from control of a disinterested party and placed where it belongs under the control of the NYRA.
I urge Governor Paterson to seriously consider alternatives put on the table by the Senate and the Assembly before making any rash moves that would inflict more damage on an already embattled industry.