David Paterson announced that the state will take over the city’s unprofitable Off-Track Betting operation, and confirmed reports that State Senator John Sabini will leave his seat to become the head of the state’s Racing and Wagering Board.
“We have a looming crisis right here in New York City,” Paterson said. “Because of a dysfunctional statutory system, the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation is unable to continue its disbursements to the city, the state and the racing industry."
O.T.B. will continue to exist, as is, for the next 90 days, after which it will become a new public benefit corporation controlled by the state, Paterson explained. Had the state not stepped in, O.T.B.–which employs roughly 1,500 people–would have been dissolved on Sunday.
Although he shied away from revealing the financial details of the transfer, Paterson did say that “appropriate legislative reforms” will be passed to allow O.T.B. to pay off its outstanding obligations. He mentioned the consolidation of betting systems and internet services across all the state O.T.B.s as possible avenues for reform. O.T.B. will also likely move out of its current office on 42nd Street to the less pricey Aqueduct, saving the corporation $5 million.
Sabini’s appointment to the Racing and Wagering Board requires confirmation from the Republican controlled State Senate. The position pays six-figures and, importantly, is a six-year term.
That’s much longer than Sabini was expected to be around Albany, since he was facing a strong primary challenge from City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who is supported by the Queens County Democratic Organization and a number of unions. Adding to the challenge of getting re-elected, Sabini pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence in Albany last year.
"When we got to the point when [we decided] we would take responsibility for this," Paterson said, "I asked him if he would come."
"He graciously accepted," Paterson added. "And we’re very excited about that."
Sabini, who was also in attendance, said, "For far too long, racing has been a shrinking pie. And yet, everyone wants the same size slice. You can’t do that. The math doesn’t work. We need to make racing in New York a growth industry."