Cuomo’s OTB veto the right move for New York
Whatever his motive, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto of the oddball legislation giving Catskill OTB authority to take over operations of the bankrupt OTB franchise in New York City can only be viewed as good news.
The last thing New York racing needs is more power in the hands of any of the six regional OTB corporations (New York City, Catskill, Capital District, Nassau, Suffolk, and Western Regional), especially at the expense of the New York Racing Association.
New York has the oldest, and worst, OTB system in America. The establishment of six regional fiefdoms that are competitors to the state’s racetracks was a huge mistake when the system was created more than 40 years ago. Nothing has been done to correct that error.
In my opinion, the state’s OTB system in general, and New York City OTB in particular, has done more damage to horse racing’s image in New York than any other development in my lifetime. The New York City OTB parlors were seedy, dirty, and horribly run for most of their existence. Though many of the city’s worst OTBs were closed and some of the shops transformed into semi-hospitable bars by the time of the December 2010 bankruptcy, it still seemed like a mercy killing when NYCOTB was shut down.
Ideally, the New York Racing Association would be in charge of distributing its product to New Yorkers. The OTB system, in addition to providing revenue to the state, should be designed to strengthen the racing industry and its various components, including the many agricultural jobs created by the breeding, raising, and training of Thoroughbreds.
That has not been the case. It has instead been a political plum for the dispensation of patronage jobs in a bureaucratic cesspool.
The 2012 takeover by Gov. Cuomo of the New York Racing Association through the reorganization board that he now controls presents a perfect opportunity to fulfill that desired outcome for NYRA and a New York City OTB system. Even if the five other regional OTBs continue their operations, now is the time for the governor to begin pushing for a restructuring of the OTB system in the nation’s largest city. He has appointed a number of smart people and successful businessmen who surely must see the benefits of a NYRA-run OTB system in New York City.
His veto of the Catskill OTB legislation is a sign the governor is not content with what had been the status quo.