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Onondaga County Votes Down OTB

Posted by on June 8, 2011

On June 7, the Onondaga County Legislature rejected Off Track Betting for the second time in a year.

Is Off Track Betting dead for Onondaga County? No, not necessarily. The door is open for the City of Syracuse to seek special legislation to be the beneficiary of the revenue from an off track betting parlor located within the city. This would mean that Onondaga County would gain no benefit from a parlor, should one ever be built.

Brick and mortar parlors came about in the late 1960’s. They offered the ability for people who could not get to the track for live racing to wager and watch the races. The benefits to the communities during the 1970’s,- 1990’s was huge. However as slots and VLT’s have become more prevalent, the new generation has moved away from racing and more towards the immediacy of the reward from slots.

Twenty years ago, I would be cheering this news. I would be excited as a horse owner at the opportunity to watch and wager on my horses in a local parlor. I would be looking forward to the additional monies to the horsemen and available for increased purses as a result of the wagering in Onondaga County.

That was then, now while my desire for the benefits of OTB as a horse owner is still there, my optimism for the increased revenue for the city and the county is not. Capital OTB and the County claim that the revenue from wagering at a facility in Syracuse would raise over $1 million dollars for Onondaga County from the monies wagered here. Unfortunately, with the advent and success of internet wagering and watching of live races, I think those numbers are inflated.

Because those numbers are higher than what I think the actual revenue will be, I am not in favor of OTB locally. I can watch my horses race online, wager online and never have to leave my house or office. Most racing fans are the same way; between TVG, HRTV and the various online venues, wagering can be accomplished easily and without the need to use a brick and mortar facility. That is the most basic of reasons why OTB parlors are failing, not to mention the patronage jobs associated with the parlors. Just look at NYC OTB and Suffolk OTB as examples of once giants in the industry failing as evidence that this is no longer the time for bricks and mortar parlors.

Todd Engel
tengel@engelatty.com

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