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OTB Board Reaches Deal To Keep Business Open Another Year

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TWC News: OTB Board Reaches Deal To Keep Business Open Another Year
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A day before it was scheduled to shut down, the board of the city's Off-Track Betting Corporation voted Saturday to keep its business open for at least another year.

NYC OTB Chairman Meyer “Sandy” Frucher said Governor David Paterson, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada agreed to an interim plan to ease the financial burden on the cash-strapped betting agency.

Even though the state Legislature has not officially voted on the last-minute plan, the OTB Board unanimously voted Saturday morning to extend operations and keep its 1,300 workers employed.

"This is a good day for the workers of NYC OTB. They've lived the last couple of months in hell and this is a load off their shoulders," said Local 2021 President Leonard Allen.

To keep OTB running, the board proposed to eventually shut down two-thirds of its branches. There will also be significant staff reductions, mostly through early retirement.

As of late Saturday, the board was waiting on Albany to authorize a plan to provide severance packages for early retirees.

"We will be helpful to them to the extent that we can be," Paterson said Saturday.

"The sooner the better, because there are a lot of employees who, honestly and frankly and sadly, have had enough of pressure and stress," said Frucher. "Even in the last month, we've had a major reduction of people retiring, 4 percent. That's a lot. We don't think those people should be disadvantaged."

To increase revenue, the board is also planning on installing Internet access terminals at licensed venues like bars and restaurants around the city. Similar measures are already done upstate and on Long Island.

"The difference in cost between maintaining parlors and using somebody else's infrastructure is profound," said Frucher.

Frucher said the OTB Board tried to keep the needs of its employees in mind.

"Imagine, they went through this a year-and-a-half ago and in the last four weeks they didn't know whether they were going to be reporting on Monday or not. It's just unfair. From a human perspective, it's just tragic and not tolerable," said Frucher. "That's why the board, in our own deliberations did not put another deadline on the table. We just don't want to torture the employees anymore."

OTB will continue to pay all industry racing stakeholders for races that take place in the city, but will defer payments to races run out of the state until March, to help free up $28 million.

Betters told NY1 Saturday that they are relieved OTB came up with a plan to keep the parlors open for the near future.

"That's good because a lot of people can't afford to go to the track, you know? This is closer, it's more convenient, so it's a good thing," said one bettor.

The corporation's turnaround began Friday, when OTB proposed to keep three branches open to cash customers' tickets and make account withdrawals for another six days.

OTB has experienced decades of financial trouble and has lost $45 million in the past five years.

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