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Nassau OTB to employees: Retire, use time owed or work without pay

A Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting location in Franklin

A Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting location in Franklin Square. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting has asked its 132 employees to use accumulated sick and vacation time, work temporarily without pay or retire as the agency copes with the shutdown of its betting parlors during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Suffolk County OTB is paying its 300 employees as it seeks a loan under the new federal Payroll Protection Program designed to help businesses pay their workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, agency spokesman Jon Schneider said.

Suffolk OTB's annual payroll is approximately $16.6 million. Nassau OTB has $6.98 million in annual payroll.

"We're hopeful as a public benefit corporation, that we will be able to access some of these funds for employees," Schneider said. "We are able to retain our entire workforce."

Nassau OTB officials said they don't believe the federal program covers gambling entities.

Nassau OTB, also a public benefit corporation, is "ineligible as a gambling business for loans" from the PPP program, Nassau OTB general counsel Arthur Walsh said. But the agency has filed paperwork to qualify for the program, though officials are not hopeful the application will be successful, agency spokesman David Chauvin said.

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Members of Congress and gaming industry leaders have urged the federal government to make clear that casinos are eligible for the loans if they retain their workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Nassau OTB president Joseph Cairo said closure of the public benefit corporation's betting parlors and its 12 Fast-Track digital terminals in taverns and bars last month has meant "our operation basically shut down.” 

“We took a big hit, our revenue went down drastically,” said Cairo, who also is chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee.

Nassau OTB employees were paid through April 4.

Of the agency's 132 full- and part-time employees, 104 are using accumulated time, 14 will take furloughs, and two have retired, officials said Monday, while 12 have until Monday to make their intentions known, a spokesman said.

Nassau OTB officials said a limited number of employees who are essential to operations are working and receiving full pay.

Cairo said he will continue to work, and draw down his accumulated sick and vacation time.

Kevin McCaffrey, president of Teamsters Local 707, which represents Nassau OTB employees, said "everyone’s situation is different. Some people have a lot of accrued time. Some people have no accrued time."

McCaffrey, also a Republican Suffolk County legislator from Lindenhurst, said he was encouraging OTB to apply for the Paycheck Protection Plan.

“The odds are in their favor," McCaffrey said.

On Wednesday, William Miller, chairman of the American Gaming Association, wrote President Donald Trump to urge him to make clear that small gaming entities can receive assistance from the Payroll Protection Program.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) argued in an April 4 letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that PPP, "is a totally new program that is separate and distinct from" the law that governs federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Businesses that derive more than one-third of gross annual revenue from legal gambling activities are not eligible for the disaster loans, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Nassau OTB staff operate six branch office locations, the teletheater in Plainview and online and telephone betting.

Suffolk OTB operates betting parlors, QWIKbetz locations and has online and phone operations. Also, Delaware North operates Jake's 58 Casino Hotel for OTB, which leases space at the video lottery casino from the company and receives a portion of the casino’s earnings.

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