STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE: Staten Island pol's bill would seek independent vendor for Off-Track Betting

Andrew J Lanza

February 17, 2011

Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 5:58 PM     Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011, 7:26 AM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Looking to recover jobs and health care benefits for laid-off workers -- and bring new revenue to state coffers -- state Sen. Andrew Lanza said he will introduce a bill tomorrow seeking an independent vendor to resume operations of a reconstituted city Off-Track Betting Corporation.

He said he thinks there would be "three or four potential suitors" including, perhaps, one of the state's existing track entities.

"The potential for revenues is tremendous," said Lanza (R-Staten Island). "We are talking about something real here."

Bankrupt and mismanaged for years, the city and state failed to ride to OTB's rescue last fall, leading the troubled entity to suspend operations in December, shutting betting parlors around the city, including three on Staten Island, and laying off more than a thousand workers.

The Lanza legislation would institute a public Request for Proposal (RFP) process to seek an entity to run a new OTB. Provisions of the RFP include a requirement to open at least three parlors per borough and a hiring priority given to former workers, along with a comparable health care package.

It also seeks a commitment of $4.6 million, the amount estimated to cover health care for retired workers who are not likely to seek their old jobs back.

Lanza said a new start-up could run $10 million.

He said a reconfigured OTB, run by a private vendor operator, would increase employment and tax revenues, and support the horse racing and agriculture industries in the state.

He said a "public process would ensure the integrity" of the new entity.

Lanza took heat last year from some laid-off workers who said he hadn't done enough to save their jobs.

"Good people were put out of work," said Lanza. "This gives us the opportunity to restore jobs and provide a revenue stream."