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OTB Cries Wolf

April 19, 2010

Last week, we took mild exception to the fact that state lawmakers were allowing themselves to be distracted by the New York City OTB matter. We were incredulous that they’d put budget negotiations on hold for what we regarded as little more than a bookie bailout.

In the lawmakers’ defense, they were told in no uncertain terms that there was a crisis at OTB and that unless they acted right away, more than a thousand jobs in New York City would be lost. This was the message from OTB Chair Sandy Frucher.

Based on Frucher’s insistence that a bailout was necessary – and due to the belief that Frucher was wired to Andrew Cuomo – lawmakers quickly advanced legislation that would have taken resources from a variety of racing interests and given those resources to OTB.

But harness tracks, horsemen and the union all cried foul, and the lawmakers balked. The bailout push faltered, with everyone bracing for a bad news announcement from Frucher.

But over the weekend, Frucher announced that OTB wouldn’t close after all, that, in fact, he could take administrative moves to keep it running.

Lawmakers are incredulous. They believe Frucher deceived them. The word now from legislative sources is that Frucher’s credibility is shot, and that lawmakers won’t make a move regarding OTB until there’s an independent audit of its books.

But back to NT2 original point: This matter has monopolized the lawmakers’ attention for two weeks at a time when budget negotiations should have the top priority. We’re exactly where we were on April 1, which is nowhere.

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