by Paul Post
Nassau Off Track Betting Corp. President Joseph Cairo said his organization’s shops near Belmont Park have taken a 20% hit since New York Racing Association opened its new Belmont Café simulcasting-type facility at the track in mid-December.
Cairo is also greatly concerned about the impact of Aqueduct’s new racino slated to open this summer. In addition to the racino—Resorts World New York run by Genting New York LLC—NYRA also has plans for a new sports bar/racing wagering facility at Aqueduct.
Without relief from the state, Nassau OTB will be headed down the same slope as shuttered New York City OTB and Suffolk OTB , which is $750,000 in the red and contemplating Chapter 9 bankruptcy, Cairo said. Suffolk County Legislature is scheduled to meet Thursday, although it is uncertain if the board will authorize the county-run OTB to pursue bankruptcy proceedings.
“They’re [NYRA] hurting us,” Cairo said. “Unless there’s some relief from the state we’re going to keep going down.”
NYRA President and Chief Executive Officer Charles Hayward could not immediately be reached for comment.
Nassau OTB handled $237.8-million in wagers last year, almost $20-million less than in 2009—an 8% decline. Cairo said the state’s off-track betting firms should be allowed to keep unclaimed funds instead of turning them over to the state. For Nassau, that comes to nearly $600,000 per year. Also, he said the state should give the OTBs relief from “dark day” payments.
Cairo, who took over last May, said his firm has cut expenses by $2.5-million the past couple of years, $2-million of which came via reductions in administrative payroll. The remaining $500,000 savings was in operational expenses, such as advertising, he said.
Cairo blamed the economy for much of the New York off-track betting system’s troubles, but added that many traditional racing bettors are retiring and have less disposable income or are moving to South to warm-weather states.
“We aren’t replacing these people who are leaving,” he said. “Young people aren’t replacing the traditional bettors in their 50s and 60s. Things are getting tougher. There’s no doubt about it.”