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Nassau OTB has no profit share for county

For the first time, Nassau's Off-Track Betting agency did not turn over any profit to the county last year in addition to its usual surcharge payment, officials said.

Nassau Downs did pay the county $5.3 million derived from the surcharge on winning bets in 2009. In 2008, the betting agency paid Nassau $5.9 million in surcharge and $1.1 million from the agency's operating profit. The profit payment had steadily decreased over the years.

OTB officials blamed the recession and a nationwide downturn in gambling for the lower payment.

In 2009, the total amount of money wagered, called the "handle," fell 9.9 percent nationally, said Nassau County OTB president Dino Amoroso. Nassau's handle fell 7.7 percent, a smaller decline than in either New York City or Suffolk, he said.

Suffolk OTB was projected to pay $2.05 million in surcharge fees to the county in 2009. The final figure probably will not be available until the end of this month, said the legislature's budget review director, Gail Vizzini.

The Suffolk agency has not turned over a profit to the county for at least three years, president Jeffrey Casale acknowledged.

Besides the depressed economy, Casale blames an outdated state formula for distributing OTB revenues, which, he said, funnels too much money to profitable private racetracks at the expense of local governments.

Meanwhile, new Republican-appointed OTB directors in Nassau may finally be installed next week. After Republicans took control of the county legislature in January, they appointed a new three-member OTB board.

Although that board tried to replace Amoroso with longtime Republican operative Joseph Cairo last month, a state Supreme Court justice ruled that the new board could take no action until the State Racing and Wagering Board approves their appointments.

John Ryan, attorney for the three new directors, said the state agency had completed its background checks on the nominees and is scheduled to vote on their appointments April 26.

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