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As Albany scrambles to save OTB, patrons bet on its survival

(Photo: Andrew Hinderaker)

With Gov. David Paterson planning to throw a lifeline to cash-strapped OTB on Wednesday, patrons are betting on the survival of the city betting parlors.

New York City Off-Track Betting handles $1 billion in wagers each year yet can’t meet operating costs. Paterson is set to outline legislation that would limit OTB payments to tracks, create new means of revenue and keep the racing association afloat through the summer.

“This is a big business. I don’t care how much they owe,” said James Alzate, 40, outside The Winner’s Circle OTB parlor in midtown. “It’s all politics,” he said of the threatened shutdown. “They always come up with the money in the end.”

The OTB board was to meet again Wednesday to discuss progress in talks, with another short-term rescue plan already circulating in the Assembly.

Owned by the state, the city OTB is in bankruptcy court to modify how its revenue and debt are managed.

Citing progress on the Albany rescue plan, OTB’s latest doomsday has been postponed to this Sunday. A shutdown would close 68 city outlets and lay off 1,3000 employees. About $800 million is paid out to bettors each year and $100 million is left to the state, a budget that isn’t working for OTB.

Patron Freddy Peguero said it’s a matter of how the cash OTB throws off is distributed. “They make a profit and then the state takes the money,” said Peguero, 48, of Harlem.

Lawmakers working on a deal did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Darrell Parrott, 43, of Flatbush, said there’s a camaraderie that would be lost with an OTB shutdown.

“There’s a bond that you get with the people. … [Gambling] can be a problem, or it can be another hobby.”

(With AP)

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