A member of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) would like to assure all residents that rumors currently circulating of a state takeover of Off Track Betting (OTB) operations are untrue. The Assemblyman has been vital in brokering racing and wagering agreements with the state, such as the new New York Racing Association (NYRA) agreement that increased revenues for Batavia Downs.
“To be very clear, there have been no discussions of a state takeover of OTB and should such discussions arise, I would like all residents to know that I am strongly opposed to such an initiative, especially regarding a takeover of OTBs in Western New York,” said Hawley, who upon learning of the rumors, immediately called Western New York OTB officials to dispel the rumors.
The state took over New York City OTB in June 2008; however, due to mounting problems, on September 1, 2009, Governor Paterson signed an executive order allowing the NYC OTB organization to file for reorganization under Chapter 9 of the federal Bankruptcy Code (executive order #27). In that executive order, the Governor has directed NYC OTB to put together a restructuring plan within the next two months.
Contained in the 2008 legislation allowing the state to take over NYC OTB, the State Legislature also appointed a task force to study regional OTB corporations. Their report is due later this fall.
Both of these actions have helped to fuel rumors that the task force would “rubber stamp” a rumored initiative for a state takeover to allow OTB revenues to be moved from local governments to the state’s General Fund to balance budget deficits.
In order for the state to take over OTB corporations across the state, there would need to be legislation drafted and moved through both houses. However, at this time, there is no such legislation, nor have there been discussions to draft or introduce any legislation of the sort.
Assemblyman Hawley stated, “I can certainly understand the concern: last year the Governor swiped money from snowmobilers, this year he chose to give $200 handouts to recipients of social services instead of renewing the STAR rebate program. Both of his budgets have been excessive in their spending, irresponsible and secretive in their negotiations. When it comes to making fiscal choices, there is a reason why New York State residents are skeptical of the Governor doing the right thing. However, at present, I would like to ensure all residents that there have been no discussions about a state takeover of OTB operations. Furthermore, I am adamantly against such a proposal and will fight it tooth-and-nail should such a proposal be made.”