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Letters: OTBs regaining fiscal health

Patrons stand in Suffolk OTB in Hauppauge (March

Patrons stand in Suffolk OTB in Hauppauge (March 29, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

Despite your commentary in "A better wager for OTBs" [Editorial, May 27], the Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. continues to generate money for Nassau County and New York State, at no cost to taxpayers.

Last year, Nassau OTB delivered more than $3.2 million to Nassau County and generated more than $3.8 million in revenue for New York State in pari-mutuel tax, breakage, regulatory fees and uncashed winnings. Nassau OTB also contributed more than $1.8 million to the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund and the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund.

While similar entities have been unable to sustain themselves in this difficult economic climate, since the new administration took office in May 2010, Nassau OTB has met its obligation to taxpayers by cutting our workforce salaries by about $3 million. Nonunion exempt staff has been reduced by 31 percent, and union members by 12 percent, primarily through early retirement incentives. Nassau OTB further reduced operating expenses by $1.4 million.

In addition, Nassau OTB's Internet-wager sales have increased by 34 percent since 2009, and our FastTrack franchise has been expanded to 11 locations, with several additional venues in the application process. With limited overhead, FastTrack provides a low-cost alternative to the traditional branch locations.

We understand the importance of reform and have advocated for legislative initiatives to improve the efficiency of the New York State OTB systems. The bottom line remains that Nassau OTB does not cost the taxpayer a dime and continues to meet its long-standing commitment to Nassau County by generating revenue that reduces the tax burden of local residents.

Joseph G. Cairo Jr., Hempstead

Editor's note: The writer is president of the Nassau Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.
 

Newsday's incendiary headlines and inaccurate narrative grab the spotlight, leaving facts in the shadows.

Suffolk OTB filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in May. The petition included a list of creditors owed money by Suffolk OTB, one of which is the state retirement fund.

Newsday falsely sounded the alarm that Suffolk OTB would saddle the county with debt. Suffolk County is not responsible for OTB's debts. New York State racing law states, "The bonds, notes or other obligations of a corporation shall not be a debt of either the state of New York or of any participating county and neither the state nor any county shall be liable thereon."

Newsday points to New York City OTB's demise -- and debt -- as a cautionary tale. Left out is the state takeover of NYC-OTB before its 2010 shutdown.

No comparable situation exists with Suffolk OTB. Although the county legislature appoints the board of directors, Suffolk OTB operates as a separate legal entity and has never received one penny of taxpayer money. In fact, since 1974, Suffolk OTB has generated more than $200 million for the county and $159 million for the state.

Threatening that public revenue are the industry's dysfunctional distribution formulas. In addition to paying commissions to purses and breeders, Suffolk OTB is legally required to send millions in commissions to privately held harness tracks that are flush from video lottery terminals. No entity can survive indefinitely when it must send out more money than it takes in. Privatization of OTBs is not the panacea Newsday suggests; dysfunctional formulas would still exist.

Newsday would have readers believe that only a private operator has the ability to focus attention on "the aspects of gambling on horses that work, like betting machines in bars, and Internet wagering." We know that works! Suffolk OTB's Qwik Bet wagers increased from $1 million in 2006 to $9 million in 2011. Internet wagering grew from $3 million in 2010 to $7 million in 2011.

We are also cutting costs. Suffolk OTB halved its branch locations, from 14 in 2008 to seven. Between 2006 and 2011, we slashed expenses from $26 million to $15 million and reduced our employees from 379 to 212.

The reality is that Suffolk OTB's new business plan has already yielded quantifiable results.

Jeffrey A. Casale, Hauppauge

Editor's note: The writer is the president of Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

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