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Nassau OTB to let comptroller see finances

Pedestrians walk past an OTB location in the

Pedestrians walk past an OTB location in the Queens. (September 1, 2009) Credit: AP

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos has gotten Nassau OTB to agree to release to him its financial data even though it's a state agency that doesn't have to do so, he said.

"While the downturn in the economy has affected almost all of Nassau's businesses, the current financial condition of the Nassau OTB directly affects the county's budget and year-end results," Maragos said in a release. "I want to review their books and see if there is anything we can do to reverse their bad luck."

The county gets a portion of the agency's revenue.

The request was made earlier this month and Maragos said Friday he thought he would have the material by now but was recently told he would have to wait until early February because the off-track betting agency's fourth-quarter data will not be finalized until then.

Maragos said he is trying to figure out why the agency's revenue to the county has declined 64 percent since 2004, from $14 million then to $5.1 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year, while at the same time its administrative expenses have soared more than 50 percent.

But Nassau OTB president Dino Amoroso said horse-race betting is down nationwide and the increased administrative cost figures cited by Maragos are totally incorrect.

"Mr. Maragos never talked to me about this," Amoroso said. "If he had, I could have straightened him out. It's obvious he got his information from a preliminary report by the county's Office of Legislative Budget Review, but that report did not have all of the pertinent information. Expenses actually went up 5.9 percent over five years."

That office's director, Steve Antonio, supported Amoroso.

"We originally just took the numbers off the financial statement," he said. "Our report was accurate but somewhat misleading. Some employees working on capital projects were not picked up as salaries and fringe in the financial statement. We added all of that in our final report."

Maragos said he still intends to pursue his review.

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