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Suffolk OTB rescue called 'a done deal'

The Racing Forum on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge,

The Racing Forum on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, one of the venues operated by Suffolk OTB. Photo Credit: Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. 2010

State lawmakers have reached an agreement to permit Suffolk Regional Off-Tracking Betting Corp. to seek bankruptcy -- keeping it from going out of business, supporters said.

A provision that gives Suffolk OTB authority to file for bankruptcy has been included in one of several state budget bills printed Monday and expected to be enacted later this week. The OTB had told lawmakers it would run out of cash by early April unless it filed for protection from its creditors.

“They’re taken care of,” Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) said of Suffolk OTB. “It’s a done deal.”

Suffolk OTB has been fighting for survival since March 2011 when it filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Churchill Downs -- the venerable Kentucky horse racing track and one of the OTBs creditors -- sued to block them.

In December, a federal judge threw the bankruptcy petition into limbo by ruling that Suffolk OTB inappropriately sought authority from the county legislature, rather than going through the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Suffolk OTB asked state legislators to help, but negotiations stalled for a while. The Democrat-controlled Assembly favored tailoring a bill to tackle Suffolk’s problems while Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said the Republican-led Senate favored a statewide approach that would address any OTB facing insolvency.

Meanwhile, Suffolk OTB told legislators it might run out of money in April, putting roughly 230 jobs at risk.

In “the spirit of compromise,” the two houses agreed to include in the budget a Suffolk-specific provision and a statewide one, Sweeney said. The agreement should remove immediate threats to Suffolk OTB’s viability, although it still must go through the bankruptcy process, he said. OTB provides about $1.5 million in annual revenue to the county, he added.

“The significant thing about this is that it saves jobs,” Sweeney said, “and it continues to provide a significant revenue stream to Suffolk County that taxpayers won’t have to make up.”

Photo:The Racing Forum on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, one of the venues operated by Suffolk OTB.

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