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Suffolk gets record $7.2 million payment from county Off-Track Betting

Patrons bet on horse races at The Racing

Patrons bet on horse races at The Racing Forum, operated by Suffolk OTB, in Hauppauge on Jan. 25, 2019. Credit: Barry Sloan

Suffolk County Off-Track Betting Corp. has made a record $7.25 million quarterly payment to the county, despite limited operations at Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

OTB transferred $7,258,614 on April 30, as the Islandia casino, Suffolk OTB's biggest moneymaker, continued to operate at 25% capacity because of the pandemic, officials said.

OTB's contribution to Suffolk County — larger than any annual transfer OTB has made to the county since 1989 — came after OTB's emergence from bankruptcy last year. The betting agency finished paying off nearly $78 million in total debt in 2020, officials said.

"This is a jackpot for Suffolk County taxpayers and a testament to the hard work of the talented women and men of this organization," Suffolk OTB President and CEO Jim LaCarrubba said in a statement.

The betting agency is in talks to buy Jake’s 58 from Delaware North, the Buffalo-based company that owns and operates the video-lottery casino, for $120 million, officials have said.

County Executive Steve Bellone has urged Suffolk OTB to put the brakes on the deal while officials conduct a review.

Suffolk officials announced plans to hire consultant Morowitz Gaming Advisers — which has offices in Manhattan, Las Vegas and Atlantic City — to conduct a yearlong study of the plan.

Derek Poppe, a spokesman for Bellone, did not respond directly to a question about OTB's recent payment to the county.

But Poppe said: "Delaware North has competently operated the casino, which is why it’s so important that an independent analysis be completed before OTB implements a plan to remove this professional operator and add $120 million in debt."

Jake’s 58 took in more than $725 million between January and March 2021, with most of the money going back to bettors, according to New York State Gaming Commission figures.

The casino provided OTB with $49.8 million during that period, OTB said.

Between September 2020 and March 2021, the casino took in about $1.74 billion, according to OTB and state gaming commission figures.

About 93% of the earnings were paid to bettors, Suffolk OTB said.

The casino took in a total of $3.47 billion in fiscal 2018 and $3.88 billion in 2019, state figures show.

Suffolk receives all net profits from Jake’s 58 after OTB pays for operating expenses and required contributions to the state, OTB spokesman Jon Schneider said.

OTB payments from the first quarter of 2021 will help offset county expenses, officials said.

Beginning next year, OTB revenues will fund operations of the county Fair Elections Fund, which will publicly finance campaigns for county elections beginning in 2023, officials said.

Suffolk officials had expected OTB to contribute $25 million annually to the county once it emerged from bankruptcy.

But the coronavirus pandemic forced Jake’s 58 and OTB horse betting offices to close in March 2020.

County officials lowered their expectations to $1 million from OTB for 2020 and $15 million for 2021.

Jake’s 58 reopened in September at 25% capacity, or 835 people, and was scheduled to begin operating at 50% capacity on Saturday.

The county received a total of $7.9 million in revenue from Jake’s 58 in the casino's first three years of operation, according to the Suffolk Legislature’s Budget Review office. The casino opened in 2017.

Legis. Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) called Suffolk's receipt of $7.2 million from OTB for the first quarter of the year "great news" for the county budget.

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