Last Friday, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released an audit which raises concerns about the future of Off-Track Betting (OTBs). It finds that declining interest in horse racing, competition from online gambling, casinos and the lotter has pushed off-track betting (OTB) to the “risk of insolvency.”
The state regulates five regional off-track betting corporations that operate parlors around the state. Total OTB wagering in the state is down 24% ($1.2 billion) during the five-year period of 2009-2013 compared to the previous five-year period. The decline in OTB revenue has adversely impacted distributions to local governments, which declined from $17.6 million in 2009 to $10.2 million in 2013, a 42% decrease.
Comptroller DiNapoli said:
“The viability of OTBs is in financial jeopardy. Statutory payment requirements, a downturn in racing interest and major fee increases have each contributed to this plight. As competition for gambling dollars intensifies in New York, the state must reexamine the roles of OTBs. Some localities rely on this revenue to help balance their budgets and already feel the effects of this decline.”
This is an important reminder that gambling revenue – while it creates some jobs and economic opportunity — is not a substitute for a strong economy that is growing private sector jobs.